Energy choices ignite change: Act now to reduce emissions!

This week, we’ll be going over the powerful connection between energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Explore how our daily energy choices impact the environment and discover effective strategies to conserve energy and reduce emissions.

Energy’s Role in Emissions

Energy is a driving force behind modern life, but its lifecycle, from extraction to combustion, plays a big role in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

During extraction, resources like coal, oil, and natural gas are sourced directly from the earth, releasing GHGs such as methane. The following processing phase transforms these raw materials into usable forms, like refining oil into gasoline, which also emits GHGs. Additionally, oil and gas leaks throughout these stages not only amplify GHG contributions but pose additional concerns, such as water, soil, and air contamination. These initial stages of energy production, including the shipping of fossil fuels, account for 15% of their GHG emissions.

Combustion, distinct from the initial production stages, is the process of burning these fuels to generate electricity or heat. This act releases carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect, which traps solar heat in our atmosphere leading to global warming and climate change.

Did You Know? Buildings account for 40% of total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.

Understanding Your Impact

Buildings, heating, cooling, and lighting account for a substantial portion of overall GHG emissions. You have the power to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make a tangible impact by making conscious choices in your energy consumption.

By making a simple switch to a smart thermostat, for example, you’re not only optimizing your home’s comfort but also significantly reducing your energy consumption. A smart thermostat can trim around 15% off your heating and cooling energy use. That means not just a lower utility bill, but also a significant drop in carbon dioxide emissions – up to approximately 600 kilograms less per year (or the equivalent of not eating 150 cheeseburgers a year). Imagine the collective impact if every household were to adopt this energy-saving approach.

Taking Action: Strategies for Energy Conservation

As students, staff, and faculty, we can make a significant impact on campus and in our personal lives by adopting sustainable practices. Take a moment and think about how these strategies could help us reach our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in addition to SDG 13 – climate action.

  1. Efficient Lighting: Switch to LED bulbs and turn off lights when not needed. Lighting consumes a substantial amount of energy, and LEDs use far less electricity and have a longer lifespan. (Goal 12)
  2. Smart Thermostat Use: Set your thermostat to energy-efficient levels. Heating and cooling account for a significant portion of energy consumption; adjusting your thermostat by a few degrees can lead to notable energy savings. (Goals: 9 and 12)
  3. Alternative Heating and Cooling Systems: Consider alternatives to conventional heating and cooling approaches and take advantage of numerous government funding opportunities. For example, using a heat pump system eliminates the need for natural gas for many homes, as the system works on a heat transfer system run by electricity. Similarly, landscaping, vines, and trees, can reduce air conditioning needs, or slow down winter winds. (Goals: 7 and 14)
  4. Unplug Electronics: Unplug chargers, appliances, and electronics when not in use to prevent standby power consumption. Use power strips to easily disconnect electronics. Many devices continue to draw power even when turned off. “Vampire” energy is responsible for 1% of global emissions (read : ‘Vampire Energy’ Is Sucking the Life out of Our Planet | WIRED). (Goal: 12)
  5. Insulation Upgrades: Seal gaps and insulate windows and doors to prevent drafts and reduce heating and cooling needs. (Goal: 9)
  6. Renewable Energy: Advocate for a greener campus. Support the installation of solar panels to get clean energy from the sun. Explore the potential for wind turbines to generate renewable electricity on campus. (Goal: 7)
  7. Green Buildings: Promote sustainable infrastructure. Advocate for the adoption of LEED principles to enhance energy-efficient construction. Encourage the integration of smart building technologies to optimize energy use. (Goals: 9 and 11)

Remember, our collective efforts can lead to meaningful reductions in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to a more sustainable future.

Get Inspired! Sustainability on our Campuses

Solar energy is a clean alternative to traditional fossil fuels. By converting sunlight into electricity, institutions can reduce their carbon footprint and reliance on non-renewable resources.

Red Deer Polytechnic is leading the way by installing over 4,100 photovoltaic solar panels across their campus, including a new student residence. Their Alternative Energy Lab further equips students to harness and study this sustainable power source, showcasing their dedication to a greener future and becoming a net-zero energy institution.

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Energy Consumption Challenge

Your Challenge: Think about your energy use this week and the ways you can adopt energy-saving practices both at home and on campus. Commit to at least one new strategy:

  • Turning off lights when not in use
  • Setting the thermostat to efficient levels
  • Unplugging electronics when not in use
  • Sealing gaps and insulating windows and doors to prevent drafts
  • Reducing your consumption of goods
  • Advocating for renewable energy and green buildings on campus