“You’re going to have to change the priorities of your life if you love this planet.” Helen Caldicott on Global Warming (with permission). Conserving energy is the easiest and quickest way to reduce our greenhouse emissions and help end or reduce the need for ever more power plants. We in the USA must lead the way. About half is transportation and residential and is in our hands as consumers to affectAmtrak’s fleet of trains removes 8 million cars from the road and eliminates the need for 50,000 passenger airplanes each year. Without rail as an option, freight shippers would have to put 50 million more trucks on the road. On a per-passenger-mile basis, Amtrak is almost 20% more efficient than air travel, and 28% more efficient than car travel according to the US Dept. of Energy

Latest update:

August 3 2018: Americans spend $19 billion every year on ghost power, (also called vampire or phantom  energy)  leaving devices plugged in without being used. Whether the electricity bill is unpredictable from month to month or it’s consistently higher than you would like, vampire energy may be the culprit. Learn how to identify and manage phantom energy in your home, and you may be surprised to find a reduction in power costs. Here’s everything you need to know about vampire energy, energy-draining appliances, and quick fixes for saving electricity at home.  On average, that means about $165 to $440 cost per household depending on tier rates and location. link



  • Recycling information
  • Electronic waste
  • Ghost/Vampire power
  • Data centers –  a growing problem
  • LED
  • Residential/commercial and transportation
  • LEED

See also the What You Can Do page to conserve energy and reduce your carbon footprint.

 Recycling information

June 2015: The business of recycling in the US has stalled. Recycling in recent years has become a money-sucking enterprise in the USA. WasteManagement and other recyclers say that more than 2,000 municipalities nationwide are paying to dispose of their recyclables instead of the other way around.  “If people feel that recycling is important, and I think they do, increasingly, then we are talking about a nationwide crisis,” said David Steiner, CEO of Waste Management. By pushing to increase recycling rates with bigger and bigger bins, while demanding almost no sorting by consumers, the recycling stream has become increasingly polluted and less valuable, imperilling the economics of the whole system. Today, more than a third of all glass sent to recycling facilities ends up as crushed shards. It is trucked to landfills as daily cover to bury the smell and trap gases. The rest of the glass has almost no value to recyclers and can often cost them to haul away. link

The ultimate guide to reducing waste – Suggested recycling link

 Electronic waste

December 2017: UN warns of surging e-waste. A full 44.7 million tonnes of so-called e-waste was generated around the world in 2016, up 8% from two years earlier. At the same time, this waste, which can pose serious risks to human health and the environment, is rarely recycled or properly discarded, with most of it ending up at dumpsites or in incinerators, according to the report. Only 20% of all e-waste, or 8.9 tonnes, generated last year was documented as properly recycled, while the fate of a full 76% of all e-waste around the globe is unknown. link

September 2016: Globally e-waste is an intensifying problem. Electronic waste, or “e-waste”, is full of valuable resources: a tonne of mobile phones, which is roughly equivalent to 6,000 handsets, contains about 130kg of copper, more than 3kg of silver, 340 grams of gold and 140 grams of another precious material known as palladium. Between 2009 and 2014, the amount of e-waste generated worldwide doubled, hitting 42m metric tonnes per year. According to a report by the United Nations University, the combined estimated value of the resources embedded in that waste was A$69bn (US$52bn). Less than one-sixth was diverted to proper recycling plants. link

E-WasteThe Basel Convention.
Some 53 million tons of electronic waste was generated worldwide in 2009, and only about 13% was recycled. The Basel Convention is an international agreement governing the handling and trade of hazardous waste. Executive director Jim Puckett says the “U.S. has been asleep at the switch.” More than 165 countries have ratified the convention, but the United States has not – read more.  Hundreds of thousands of computers and cell phones are discarded in America every week. The USA is the only leading nation not regulating export of hazardous waste such as lead and mercury in electronic waste. It takes a little effort to do the right thing and recycle safely, but check locally where you can recycle responsibly. link
August 2012: 5-fold increase in e-waste  Europe beefs up electronic equipment and devices waste directive – link

March 2015: France tries to limit e-waste. A new French law is designed to make products easier to repair, keep them out of the trash. One reason the world throws out more than 50 million tons of gadgets each year is ‘planned obsolescence’ making it often cheaper to buy a replacement than attempt a repair. Though France may be first to implement these laws, others may follow. In the U.S. the Digital Right to Repair organization is pushing for similar legislation. link

May 2010: INTERPOL global e-waste crime group meeting. Identifying and implementing a worldwide strategy to combat the illegal traffic in electronic waste was the focus of a three-day meeting co-hosted by the U.S. EPA Office of Criminal Enforcement which provided a forum for more than 100 representatives and experts from 21 countries and 12 nongovernmental organizations, the largest ever such gathering of involved countries and agencies. link

November 2009: Worldwide, consumer electronics now represent 15% of household power demand, and that is expected to triple over the next two decades, according to the International Energy Agency, making it more difficult to tackle greenhouse gas emissions. To satisfy the demand from gadgets will require building the equivalent of 560 coal-fired power plants, or 230 nuclear plants, according to the agency”. link

EPA: Where to donate or recycle electronic products – link
Guide to recycling your electronics – link
Four green ways to get rid of cell phones and chargers – link

 Ghost power

Simply stated, an energy vampire is any electronic that still consumes power even when it has been turned off. The power used is called “standby power” or “phantom load”. Some of the most common energy vampires are computer equipment, television sets, stereo and speaker systems, cable or satellite boxes, and pretty much anything with a clock in it. Estimates from suggest that standby power accounts for anywhere from 10 to 13% of the total amount of power used in the US and Europe.  Over the given lifetime of a microwave, for example, it may consume more power when not in use than it does while working. link

December 2016: California clamps down on “vampire emissions”. Under new California rules, desktop computers must reduce how much power they draw by about 30% when idle by the beginning of 2019 and nearly 50% by mid-2021. The standards also apply to laptops, but it’s estimated that about three-quarters of notebook computers on the market already meet the requirements. What is described as “energy vampires” by efficiency experts, desktops are switched on 77% of the time but sit idle for 61% of those minutes. Use of computers in the state represents up to 3% of residential electricity use and 7% of commercial use. link

(May 2015 -NRDC report). Vampire power costs Americans $19 billion every year. link

Phantom loads/Ghost power. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory a typical American home has forty products constantly drawing power. Together these amount to almost 10% of residential electricity use. link  The wasted energy, in other words, is equivalent to the output of 18 typical power stations.

June 2014: Cable TV boxes 2nd biggest energy user – link  (July 2014: According to the IEA, the world’s 14 billion television set-top boxes, printers, game consoles and other electronic devices waste $80 billion of power a year due to inefficient technology. link)

The consumption from these hidden phantom loads in the USA
is said to equal
 the electricity use of Greece, Peru and Vietnam combined!  

 Data Centers – a growing problem

Overview – September 2012: There are now more than three million data centers of widely varying sizes worldwide, according to figures from the International Data Corporation that now exist to support the overall explosion of digital information. The number of federal data centers grew from 432 in 1998 to 2,094 by 2010. Stupendous amounts of data are set in motion each day as, with an innocuous click or tap, people download movies on iTunes, check credit card balances through Visa’s web site, send e-mails with files attached, buy products on Amazon,  post on Twitter or read newspapers online. Nationwide, data centers used about 76 billion kilowatt-hours in 2010, or roughly 2% of all electricity used in the country that year,

Most data centers, by design, consume vast amounts of energy in an incongruously wasteful manner. Online companies typically run their facilities at maximum capacity around the clock, whatever the demand. As a result, data centers can waste 90% or more of the electricity they pull off the grid. Worldwide, digital warehouses use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants, according to estimates industry experts compiled for The Times. Data centers in the United States account for one-quarter to one-third of that load, the estimates show. link

July 2014: Inside Apples’ huge solar farm. Data centers, with their densely packed rows of servers and requirements for climatically controlled conditions, are notorious energy hogs. Some use as much power as a small city. In Apple’s case, the North Carolina data center requires as much power as about 14,000 homes, about three times as much as the nearby town of Maiden.  In 2012, the company built its first solar farm across the road from the data center. Apple built a second solar farm, and announced plans for a third, all roughly about the same size, to keep up with the growing use of data. It also operates fuel cells, running on biogas pumped in from a landfill. All of the power generated on-site is fed into the electricity grid. link
March 2012:  More details on Apple’s NC solar farm – link

 LED lighting

February 2016: CFLs will soon disappear off the market. While CFL still dominates the energy-efficient marketshare, preference for LED has grown organically. Just a few years ago, they were drastically more expensive – up to $30 per bulb. But thanks in part to government regulation of subsidies, the prices have gradually dropped, now down to about $5 for a basic LED bulb. GE will stop manufacturing and selling the compact fluorescent bulbs by the end of 2016. Although they were the first major alternative to regular halogen or incandescent light bulbs, CFL bulbs now fail to meet government standards for energy efficiency in the United States and abroad. link
(September 2016) Halogen spotlights to be phased out across Europe as LED’s dominate. link

LED (light emitting diodes) technology: In the U.S., 78% of the public is completely unaware that traditional (incandescent) light bulbs will be phased out in 2012. [The new federal lighting efficiency standards mean 100-watt bulbs can no longer be made from January 2012, 75-watt bulbs will cease manufacture from January 2013 and 60 and 40-watt bulbs will follow from January 2014. They mirror similar rules already in place in the EU where incandescent bulbs are gradually being phased out.]  By law in 2012 bulbs must be 30% more efficient than current incandescent versions beginning that year. LEDs consume a fraction of the electricity that incandescent bulbs and even CFL light bulbs consume. While LED bulbs cost more than their counterparts, they last 10-20 years, and LEDs differ from CFLs in that they contain no mercury, a very toxic element. Since LED bulbs operate cooler, the decrease in temperature can also keep your home cooler during summer months. The challenges being addressed are the high prices for LEDs and improving the light emissions. more

                               Major US cities switching to LED lighting. 

October 2013: New York City switching to LEDs. In an energy-saving effort, New York City plans to replace all of its 250,000 streetlights with LED fixtures in one of the nation’s largest retrofitting projects. The phasing out is part of the administration’s long-term plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2017. The project is expected to save $14 million a year in energy and maintenance costs. link
April 2013: Las Vegas converts 42,000 streetlights to LED. The savings in energy and maintenance is expected to be $2 million per year, with a return on investment in seven or eight years, city officials said. link
June 2013: Some utilities benefit from avoiding LED lighting. By changing its 30,000 street light bulbs to more efficient LEDs, St. Petersburg could save as much as $1.8 million a year – if Duke Energy would allow it. If Duke reduced St. Petersburg’s tariff, it would also have to reduce the rate for any other local government in its service area in Florida that switched to LEDs. That could have a substantial impact on Duke’s bottom line. link

February 2016: US Department of Energy issues a proposed rule for light bulbs that would likely lead to the phaseout of compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) – link

According to the Department of Energy, in the next 20 years rapid adoption of LED lighting in the U.S. can:

  • Reduce electricity demands from lighting by 62 percent.
  • Eliminate 258 million metric tons of carbon emissions.
  • Avoid building 133 new power plants.
  • Anticipate financial savings that could exceed $280 billion.
 Residential/commercial & transportation

Transportation. The USA is currently the largest single consumer of energy. Transportation includes all vehicles used for personal or freight transportation. Of the energy used in this sector, approximately 65% is consumed by gasoline-powered vehicles, primarily personally owned. Diesel-powered transport (trains, merchant ships, heavy trucks, etc.) consumes about 20%, and air traffic consumes most of the remaining 15%.

In 2012, transport accounted for 28% of energy consumption in the USA. source

Call to America: Turn off that air conditioner. Stan Cox, in his book, Losing Our Cool, argues that our climate-controlled lifestyle in modern America is unsustainable, that Americans rely too much on air conditioning. He’s not against having air conditioning available during heat emergencies. But Cox says comfort research proves that most people can acclimate to warmer temperatures. “Office workers who have an air-conditioned workplace will have a temperature range they’re comfortable in, that may reach up to 78,” he says. “Whereas those who work in a non-air-conditioned workplace, they were happy up to 89 degrees.” That’s if they had plenty of air movement. Cox says fans are a must, and shade makes a big difference. David Orr, who teaches environmental studies at Oberlin College, agrees that cutting back on air conditioning isn’t all that hard to do. “I don’t think anyone would ask at this point to go cold turkey on air conditioning,” Orr says. “But what is reasonable is to use it only sparingly, or as necessary. When you use it, buy the most efficient equipment you can possibly buy.” NPR 

Car idling costs over 10 billion gallons of gas each year in U.S. The average American idles his or her engine about 16 minutes a day. That means we burn about 10.6 billion gallons of gas each year to go absolutely nowhere. That gas is wasted. According to automotive experts you can make a Toyota Corolla get the same gas mileage as an 18-wheeler by sitting in the car with the air-conditioner running while waiting in a school pickup line. Experts concur that if you’re waiting for more than 30 seconds, you’ll save gas by stopping and restarting your engine. You’ll keep the air cleaner, too. Some cities and states even have anti-idling laws to prevent air pollution. link
Eco-driver: tips for eco drivinglink
Tips for efficient driving: truth and myths about saving gas/petrol

Japan shows what can be achieved. In 2006, companies including Toyota, Hitachi, Isuzu and Sharp asked everyone from chairmen down to workers to strip off their much-loved ties and jackets as office air conditioners were set no cooler than 82.4 degrees. In metropolitan Tokyo alone, the campaign saved 70 million kilowatts of power from June through August. Because of climate change, this and other decisions now means that Japan’s energy consumption per person is now almost half that of the United States. Slate article

July 2010: If all the commercial buildings in the U.S. that exist as of 2010 were retrofitted to be more energy efficient, the country as a whole would save over $41.1 billion a year in energy bills. link

June 2010: Switching off lights has bigger impact than you might think. Switching off lights, turning the television off at the mains and using cooler washing cycles could have a much bigger impact on reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power stations than previously thought, according to a new study published this month in the journal Energy Policy. The study shows that the figure used by government advisors to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide saved by reducing people’s electricity consumption is up to 60% too low. link
(June 2017) Domestic appliances guzzle far more energy than advertised. An EU survey found TVs, dishwashers and fridge freezers have been found to guzzle up to twice as much energy as advertised on their energy labels, in a wide-ranging EU product survey. link

The Natural Resource Defense Council offers some simple ways that will save energy which you all can do today: link


LEED – What is it? In the United States and in a number of other countries around the world, LEED (Leadership in Energy Environmental Design) certification is the recognized standard for measuring building sustainability. link

Why homeowners should care about LEED certification
LEED building is still largely voluntary in the private building sector, though many state and federal agencies now require LEED Certified construction for all new building projects. So why should homeowners ask for LEED Certification with new homes, major remodels, and even smaller projects? Let’s start with savings. Because LEED Certified homes comply with green building standards they are far more energy efficient than traditionally built homes. That translates to substantially lower heating and cooling costs and lower utility bills. And since LEED building also utilizes many Energy Star rated building materials, from insulation to appliances to roofing materials, you can expect to get substantial tax breaks from a LEED approved home, as well. link

Two recently released studies, one by the New Buildings Institute (NBI) and one by CoStar Group, have validated what the green building community has known all along: third party certified buildings outperform their conventional counterparts across a wide variety of metrics including energy savings, occupancy rates, sale price and rental rates. link

63 million newspapers are printed each day in the U.S.
Of these, 44 million, or about 69%, of them will be thrown away.
Recycling just the Sunday papers would save more than half a million trees every week.