Today's Challenge: Unplug Your Life

For the past couple of years, we’ve enjoyed participating in Earth Hour. The idea is that for one hour, everyone on the planet turns out their lights and saves a bazillion megawatts of power. My son always enjoys our dinners by candlelight, and because so many of our neighbors participate we usually follow dinner by a trip outside to look at the stars.

As part of the January Money Diet, what if we up the ante a bit and try to reduce our energy usage for a whole day? For the next 24 hours, our family is going to strive to use as little power as possible — and you’re invited to join the experiment. I’ll report back about our activities, and encourage you to do the same.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Turn down the thermostat five or ten degrees and put on your warmest sweater. Pile on the blankets tonight.
  • Take a really quick shower. Our friends over at WiseBread.com explain in detail how to take a 60-second shower.
  • Air dry your hair.
  • Look in your kitchen drawers for hand tools. Use a rotary beater instead of an electric mixer. Use a knife instead of the food processor.
  • If you’re visiting this blog you probably already use Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs. But look around; is there just one more fixture in your house where you could swap out an incandescent bulb for a CFL? The energy and cost savings are significant.
  • Turn your water heater down by just one or two degrees.
  • Light some candles tonight.

UPDATE:  In addition to trying most of the ideas on the list above, here are some of the other things we did to drastically reduce our energy usage for a day:

  • I cooked chili in the Crock-Pot, which uses 70 watts of power per hour on ‘low.’  It’s tricky to find accurate comparisons for the slow cooker vs. running the smallest gas stove burner on ‘low’ for several hours (at our house, the Crock runs on electricity and the range uses natural gas) but most of the information I found online hails the Crock Pot as the low-energy choice.
  • I swept the floor instead of running the vacuum. According to this handy EnergySavers chart, the average vacuum cleaner consumes 1000-1440 watts per hour.  
  • I remembered to open the dishwasher just prior to the ‘dry’ cycle so the dishes could air dry. According to the Sierra Club’s ‘Mr. Green,’ this simple change saves 25 kilowatt hours of electicity per year or more.
  • I washed a load of clothes with cold water, short cycle, one rinse, and air-dried the larger clothes.
  • I turned off the computer at night, instead of leaving it in ‘sleep’ mode. Savings: 30 watts per hour.

Have fun with this challenge, and let us know how you unplug your life!

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Win a Deluxe Urban Homesteader Gift Basket

In honor of the first annual January Money Diet, the Urban Homesteader is giving away a gift basket chock-full of home and garden goodies, including a bottle of Mrs. Meyer’s All-Purpose Cleaner, 100 wildflower seeds, soup mix from the Women’s Bean Project and a personally inscribed copy of my book, “Family Home of the New West.” On January 31, 2010, I’ll draw one random name from everyone who commented during the month and that lucky person will win the gift basket. I hope you’ll stop by often this month and share your own ideas, thoughts and experiences.

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About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

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