As February is already getting under way, I’d like to share with you some new and innovative ways to help make 2012 your most energy-aware year ever. Obviously, confronting energy issues doesn’t exactly top the list of yearly resolutions that Americans make for themselves every January. With New Year’s goals usually centering on more tangible ideas such as weight loss, increased exercise, and other areas of self-improvement, lowering personal energy consumption hardly stands a chance in making the top 10.
But things have been rapidly changing in the energy world over the last couple of years, and it’s becoming easier to make energy-aware decisions everyday. Technological advancements in networking and information sharing have made monitoring and adjusting your energy usage easier than ever before. Software developers are always looking for the “next best thing” in programming, and this time they seem to be turning energy efficiency and energy tracking into one of 2012’s biggest application bandwagons. From your smart phone to your favorite social media sites, there are now several ways to educate yourself and make more informed energy choices. So many ways, in fact, that perhaps you could consider adding “Conserve energy” or “Make smarter, more efficient energy choices” to your 2012 resolution list.
Here are just a few of the new, innovative ways to incorporate more energy education into your daily life this year.
1) Download an energy efficiency smart phone app. Or 3. Or 20.
In November 2011, 43% of American cell phone users had smart phones; post-Christmas sale numbers indicate that this statistic may already be outdated, however, and a research firm, In-stat, predicted last year that smart phone usage will double by 2015. (Note: These stats aren’t including the percent of avid iPad users out there, who can also benefit from these great new applications.) It’s safe to say, then, that there’s a nice portion of the nation that could take advantage of energy efficiency and conservation applications to improve their energy use if they so chose.
I know that venturing into the app store is often a daunting and overwhelming task when you don’t know exactly what you’re hunting for; luckily, most of the legwork has already been done for you. The Alliance to Save Energy, for instance, recently devised a list of their Top 5 Energy Efficiency Smart Phone Apps. If that’s not an official enough source for you, though, try the winners of last year’s EPA Apps for the Environment Challenge.
Among the most noteworthy are:
- The Light Bulb Finder,
- Hootroot, used for determining the most efficient transportation method from point A to point B,
- GreenMeter, which can teach you how to drive more efficiently,
- and my personal favorite, MyEnergyTips, an application that gives you daily tips on how to reduce carbon and save money by making changes to your daily energy habits.
With so many great applications to help with almost any energy need, it has never been easier to lead a more energy efficient lifestyle.
2) Make use of all that social media time to become more energy-minded.
Since the pool of Americans that are social media users is slightly different from those that are smart phone users, it’s exciting to see groups, like Facebook, also adding energy data to their hefty list of shareable information. In addition to Facebook providing new ideas like eMission – a game that teaches you about climate change – this social media giant could be making a big leap for energy users in the near future.
Last October, Facebook announced that their users would soon be able to share more than just pictures and web links with their network: they’ll be able share energy data. Through a partnership with Opower and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “communities of users will be able to form teams to share tips for improvement and help realize collective goals. Taking a cue from social gaming, the app and its utility partners will also offer rewards and incentives to users who compete in local challenges and reduce their energy footprint”. The success of such an application is hard to determine; however, seeing this kind of effort is very encouraging, and can only lead to greater energy transparency later on.
3) Keep updated with energy topics through social media too.
We all know that when Facebook expanded to applications, they added other features too. Today, with just the click of a “Like” button, you can even add energy news stories and efficiency tips to your Newsfeed. Just by following the Facebook pages of energy groups and companies’, you can find links to up-to-date news on the latest movements in the energy field without ever having to navigate the search of a newspaper site. Try monitoring the page of Energy Efficiency Insights, for starters, or the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). Oh, and don’t forget to stay updated by liking our very own SACE page!
On the subject of newsfeeds, why not also “Follow” the energy movement as you do your favorite superstars? Not everyone facebooks and not everyone tweets, but I think that most of our blog readers take part in one or the other. If you’re more active on Twitter than you are on Facebook, the same tips apply. Almost every organization with a Facebook page will likely have a Twitter account, and vice versa. Instead of “liking” these usual energy organizations, try “following” them on your Twitter network and adding them to your Timeline. Again we can easily find the same suspects active here; add @ENERGY to track DOE updates, or add @cleanenergyorg to see what SACE is up to every day.
With all of these options available to you, it would be easy to make efficient energy consumption another resolution for the rest of this year.
The growing popularity of energy awareness is becoming more noticeable every year, and saving energy is almost trendy. More importantly, though: the trend is working. A report issued earlier this month by the Institute for Electric Efficiency (IEE) found that the U.S. saved almost 112 Million Megawatt hours (MWh) of energy in 2010, a 21% savings increase from 2009. With IEE having even higher hopes for 2011 energy savings, it’s clear that, though there is still a lot of work to be done, American citizens have already been taking notice of their energy use without these latest technological developments. Imagine what we could do now, if we put them to use!
Though I know we’re into February and you may have made most of your New Year’s resolutions already, it’s never too late to renew your commitment to energy conservation. With the help of these tools – and the promise of many more to come – you should be more than ready to meet any energy goals you set for 2012.
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