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Consumer spotlight: Sarah McCarthy shares how to keep energy waste to a minimum

Sarah McCarthy is interested in all things sustainability-oriented. With that in mind, Sarah decided to participate in a CUB energy consultation at a bill clinic on the campus of the University of St. Thomas.

The goal of an energy consultation is to provide techniques to save energy and lower your electric and natural gas bills in your home.

There was only one problem. Sarah’s bills were so low it was difficult to find any other actions to take, other than mentioning a couple utility rebates that could be available. So low in fact, Sarah had the lowest energy consumption of anyone who has ever participated in a bill clinic with me.

The great thing about energy consultations is that, many times, we learn new things as well. And there was plenty to learn this time around.

Sarah first became interested in limiting energy waste after watching the movie “End of Suburbia,” which increased her awareness of the finite nature of resources on Earth. This interest has spread into areas such as permaculture, and she just returned from a week-long permaculture course in Missouri.

Sarah not only uses many of the techniques CUB recommends, such as using LED light bulbs, utilizing natural light to warm your house, insulating, and using windows and fans instead of the A/C to keep her energy bills low, but also goes above and beyond to limit waste in her home. Many of these are options everyone can do as well. Here are some of the things Sarah does to save energy:

  1. Keep the thermostat low and use layers indoors to keep warm throughout the winter. Heating accounts for over 50% of many people’s home energy costs in the winter. Using layers and natural body heat can keep you warm without breaking the bank and reduces your energy use. Be sure to use window treatments to take advantage of the energy from the sun to keep your space warm as well.
  1. Insulate, insulate, insulate. Not only does insulation help to reduce the energy needed to heat and cool your home, it also makes your home much more comfortable throughout the year. Be sure to weatherize doors and windows where a lot of energy could be escaping from as well.
  1. Buy items used and ensure they are truly needed. Buying used goods not only limits physical waste, but also limits energy waste as well. Consider all the energy that goes into making the items in your home. Buying used extends the energy that went into creating that item, which is what energy efficiency is all about.
  1. Dry clothes on a clothes rack. * Replacing running a clothes dryer three times a week with a clothes rack can save over $60 a year. Using a clothes rack has many other benefits as well such as extending the life of your clothes and having them smell better after drying.

Those are just a few things Sarah does around her house to limit her energy usage and be a conscious consumer.

When asked what she is most excited for in the future of energy innovations, she focused on the importance of community. Having others around you that share your interests of limiting the footprint you leave behind can make it much more fun, like a game. Be energized by innovation and the great things people are working on.


*If air drying clothes indoors, be sure to use a ventilated area as the moisture and condensation could cause problems in unventilated areas.

Author: Ben Bratrud

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