In my book, zero-waste involves energy use. I don't want to waste a drop of our precious resources. Most of us are acutely aware of the effects of climate change in our own neighborhoods...wild fires, drought + extreme heat have hit us right where we live. Our use of fossil fuels is a prime culprit...and a switch to sustainable energy sources such as wind + solar is a necessary action our local governments + power companies need to take. As we lobby for change, our individual actions are vital. Climate change brings the fact that we live on a single planet into acute focus. Our actions affect the climate of India + Spain + the Arctic.
Here are a few of the ways we are taking action to conserve energy this summer:
-Air-conditioning :: This is a major source of carbon emissions. Major! As the developing world progresses and experiences hotter + hotter temperatures, more + more people are able to purchase AC units + experience cooler interiors. As wonderful as this is for our fellow human individuals, it's not so great for our collective future on this planet.
I try to adjust my own comfort so that those living in places where it regularly reaches temperatures well over 100F, can share some relief with just a little less cost to our planet. We keep the windows open just as long as we can stand it...then set our thermostat to 80-81F when we are at home...and turn off the AC again in the evenings. We use ceiling fans + wear light clothing. We sweat every day during the summer + trust our deodorant. :)
I keep our sheer curtains closed on the hottest days in order to keep the sunlight from warming the house as much. Move furniture away from the sunlight to keep cooler while using it. Position sit + sleep spots in the line of fan breezes. Open windows to optimize cross breezes (open windows on opposing sides of the house). Don't air-condition rooms not in use (close the door + the vents). Good insulation is as important in the summer as it is in the winter.
-Electricity :: I dream + scheme about solar panels (someday). Sheer curtains + white walls allow us to leave the lights off until very late in the evenings. Ceiling fans cool effectively + are turned off when we're not in the room.
-Gas :: Set the washing machine to cold + line dry indoors or out.
Side note: Though my gas + electric utilities are billed separately, I group them together on my budget. Our heat is gas + our air-conditioning is electric. They work like a seasonal see-saw + help me to stay on target budget-wise.
-Car gas :: Putting gas into the car is ill advised at high temperatures, because it will evaporate into the air...refuel early or late in the day. Gas emissions are a huge contributor to climate change, so we want to limit our driving as much a possible. I schedule carefully + combine car trips to minimize my driving. Mr. Tribe rides his bike to work as much as he can + showers closer to work.
-Water :: Water is a precious resource + is increasingly scarce in so much of the world. I would love to have a xeriscaped yard like we did in New Mexico, but our current yard is predominately grass. We feed our lawn native grasses + choose native landscaping plants that do well in our climate. We do not water our grass or landscaping plants in the summer. The grass gets dry, but it always revives as the weather cools. There is no need to mow the grass for much of the hottest weeks of summer, which cuts down on gas emissions + sweaty work.
I keep a close eye on the weather forecast in regards to our vegetable garden. Rain justifies celebration (+ a longer period before I need to water again)! I try to grow things that do well in our climate + need less watering. Tomatoes + peppers + native wildflowers like our heat + sun. I only water about once per week, which makes roots grow long + deep. We have a rain barrel, but I don't use its water on our edibles.
One of the easiest things to do to save water is to keep some drinking water in the fridge, so there is no need to run the tap to get it cold.
Cool showers are glorious in the summer! The colder they are, the quicker they become...and the less water + gas they use (gas to heat the water). Obviously, turn off the water while brushing teeth/washing face/shaving. Works for showering as well...get wet, turn off water, soap/shampoo up, rinse. Set timer for short showers.
-Wastewater :: "If it's yellow, let it mellow" gets gross a little faster in the summer. I find that I need to clean the toilet bowl a little more often, but all it takes is a little vinegar + baking soda. I chose a variable flusher on our newer toilet, so less water gets used for certain flushes. ;) Put a brick in the toilet tank to conserve water. A composting toilet or gray water system would be amazing.
-Food :: Summer is the time of gardens + farmer's markets. Local food eliminates all or almost all of the emissions from carting food around the globe. Never is eating raw more appealing (no energy required to heat up the oven...and subsequently to cool down the kitchen). Preserving the abundance saves food miles later. Fresh, local, whole foods require less energy than processed foods.
-Trees :: A well-placed tree is a great energy saver + cooling factor. I love a light filled home, but have marveled at the foresight of those who have landscaped a few of our homes over the years. A shade casting tree can lower the temperature + make open windows bearable for so much longer. In the winter, the light + warmth filters through the leafless branches. Magic.
Bonus :: Most of these consideration save our personal financial resources as well as our collective earthly ones.
Large scale changes like citywide or nationwide commitments to sustainable energy will bring larger scale effects on climate change...yes...but simply waiting for that to happen is not helpful. Individual action fuels our own resolve...pushes us to further action...and inspires others as we are willing to share.