Beyond the Rhetoric


My Greatest Environmental Sin

October 19th, 2008 by
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Having been born and raised in Vancouver, I was always taught to take reasonably good care of the environment. It seems to be all the rage these days to “go green”, but it’s something that Vancouverites have been trying to do for a number of years. We have the blue box recycling program, bottled beverages come with an enviro levy in addition to the bottle deposit, and a good number of people do what they can to reuse, reduce, and recycle. This is a mentality that is taught in school and it’s one that has been ingrained in Vancouver’s very culture.

While I am certainly not the greenest person in the city, I do make an effort to be mindful of my carbon footprint and the impact that I have on Mother Nature. Working from home as a freelance writer, for example, I don’t drive nearly as much as a conventional commuter and, thus, I don’t burn as much gas. This helps my pocketbook and it helps the environment. Unfortunately, I am guilty of a rather substantial environmental sin: I tend to use a lot of electricity.

A bit part of this has to do with my chosen career, but it also has to do with my areas of interest. A good deal of my freelance writing work surrounds the world of technology, so I tend to review things like cell phones, LCD monitors, MP3 players, network storage drives, and so on. These all require power.

By the same accord, my hobbies focus on the world of technology as well, so I am the proud owner of both an Xbox 360 and a Nintendo Wii. And let’s not forget about all the gadgetry that surrounds my workstation, like my laptop, my paper shredder, and my phone charger. I also use a lot of batteries for my digital cameras, video game controllers, TV remotes, and wireless desktop. That’s a fairly substantial amount of electricity.

So, what am I doing to counteract my environmental sin? What am I doing to try and reduce my impact? Well, for starters, I use a lot of NiMH rechargeable batteries. By using rechargeables, I don’t toss single-use alkalines into the landfills. That’s a good thing. Also, I tend to keep digital copies of everything rather than printing it all out. This way, I use less ink and less paper.

Next is the concept of “vampire power.” When you leave something plugged into the wall, even if it is turned off, it still draws “standby power” and this can add up to quite a bit of power consumption over the course of a month. That’s why I make an effort to unplug my power bars at the end of the day or when I’ll be out of the house for more than an hour. I also make an effort to use reusable water bottles and reusable grocery bags whenever possible.

Going green does not mean that you have to give up your way of life, per se, but it does mean that you should make some minor adjustments. It’s terribly unlikely that I’ll give up my gadget obsession any time soon, so I’ll just do my best to reduce the electricity (and the waste) that I do use. What’s your greatest environmental sin? What are you doing about it?

  Category: Technology and Gaming  

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9 Responses to “My Greatest Environmental Sin”

  1. Tyler Ingram says:

    When I leave to stay at the GFs I do ensure everything is turned off or unplugged.

    Same goes when I am over at her house and we go outside. I plan on moving downtown which means I can get rid of my car and walk everywhere. When I need a car i can borrow the GFs Yaris! but since everything is within at most a 10 min walk I’ll be green that way! Or so I’d like to think…

    If houses’ electrical systems were more balanced there would be a more efficient power draw on the circuits too but because we use powerbars and extension cords etc, it throws the balance off and you draw higher amounts. We learn in my electrical courses to load-balance electrical panels. unfortunately its a bit of a guess on what the end-user will plug in and use.

  2. Bonnie says:

    I live in Kits, so I sold my nearly new car eighteen months ago. I take transit and belong to the Cooperative Auto Network for the few times I need a car.

    I changed over to the compact florescents last year .. now we’re being told that’s not such a good idea. I’m still using them until there’s something new.

    I unplug my chargers and turn off the lights when I leave a room.

    My bad .. I live in an older apartment building, so I have cascaded power bars off two outlets for my home office. It’s a logistics nightmare and I don’t even want to think about the extra power I waste.

    Maybe I should put a small windmill in the garden to generate my own power .. Do you think the landlord would notice?

  3. Damien says:

    Michael, do those rechargeables last as long? The ones I tried depleted fast!

    • Michael Kwan says:

      My rechargeable NiMH batteries last a lot longer than regular alkalines. I use 2500mAh for AA. It depends on the application, but for things like digital cameras, you have to go with NiMH. Those Pure Energy rechargeable alkalines are garbage and you really shouldn’t bother with NiCad.

  4. dcr says:

    I’ve used some fluorescent lighting, but I try to avoid that because of the mercury in them that’s unsafe. LED lights, when those become more widely (and affordably) available will be better. They last longer than fluorescent lights, use less energy than fluorescent lights and don’t have the mercury hazards.

  5. betshopboy says:

    My environmental sin would be “vampire power” as I’ve not develop the habit to unplug the power bars when I left for work each morning.

    What I’ve been doing to offset this impact is by using rechargeable batteries, reusable water bottles and reusable grocery bags.I also try to use the laundry water for flushing the toilet.

  6. Nick says:

    Hmmm, I would have to say that electricity is my biggest thing too! Between used power and vampire power, I go through a lot of it. I have also switched to CFL light bulbs, but I should get into the habit of unplugging things when they are not in use! I’ve also considered getting a couple of solar panels to help offset this, but it’s somewhat cost prohibitive for me at this time.

  7. Mike Huang says:

    Very good post. I usually don’t unplug my power bars, but I turn it off. A least that way it does use a lot less power than if it was on with plugs that are off. 😛


  8. Deborah says:

    I started freelancing full-time on September 1st and I’ve already noticed a change in my electric bill. Thankfully, I live in a small apartment so it’s not a huge difference, but it’s noticeable, nonetheless…

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