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Energy Conservation for Solving Climate Change Problem Essay

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Updated: Apr 9th, 2020

The earth is warming due to greenhouse gases that come mainly from the way we use resources, travel, and create energy. Consequently, the subjects of climate change, global warming, and energy conservation are major talking points and news items in everyday life. Most people worry about the consequences their resource consumption when they hear news about climate change and its subsequent damage to the environment.

Moreover, most people assume that the government will solve this problem even though the consequences of too much energy consumption are individual. The ability to solve the problems that are associated with energy consumption depends on individuals changing their ways in order to make positive differences.

Consequently, if most people would change their habits of consumption this move would help in solving the problem of environmental degradation. The most significant way of changing people’s habits is to begin with early education programs for children with the view of instilling good conservational practices from this early age.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that of all the ways energy is used in America, about 39% is used to generate electricity. Therefore, the consumption of electricity has a major impact on the environment. According to current research, “the goal behind energy conservation is to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuel-based energy production, thus reducing the emission of harmful airborne pollutants and greenhouse gases as well as the related environmental harms associated with coal production” (Babcock 94).

It might surprise people to know that it is not industries or large corporations that use the most electricity. Instead, American homes use the largest portion of electricity. Since the 1970s, sales of electricity to U.S. households have been more than the ones in the commercial sector (Babcock 944).

The large increase in electricity consumption by homes is partly due to population growth and the increased number of single-family households. The largest consumer-based uses of electricity in the United States’ households in 2001 were central air-conditioning and refrigeration, which adds up to around fourteen percent of the total residential energy consumption (Babcock 944).

The “number of households with central air-conditioning doubled between 1980 and 2003…..in addition 106 million households with color TVs accounted for thirty-three billion kilowatt-hours” (Babcock 944). Furthermore, color televisions comprised the largest single home-electronic use in 2003. When television use was combined with its supporting devices such as VCRs/DVDs, cable boxes, and satellite dishes, its total energy consumption came to approximately sixteen billion kilowatt-hours.

At the same time, many families (sixty million) have personal computers, internet access, as well as printers that use up to twenty-three billion kilowatt-hours of energy per year (Babcock 945). The Energy Information Administration reports that the demand for electricity that is used to power household appliances and home electronics, particularly color TVs and computer equipment will increase rapidly in the next 20 years. Nevertheless, lighting uses only 8.8 percent of the United States household electricity on average but this is still a large amount (Babcock 945). Therefore, having people turn off their lights when not in use makes a big impact.

So, where does all this electricity come from? The most common source of domestic electricity is coal-fired plants followed by natural gas and nuclear sources. “The most common source of electricity continues to be coal-fired plants, which emit pollutants like particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, mercury, as well as greenhouse gases” (Babcock 946). The Energy Information Agency shows the following graphic related to energy use in the United States:

 energy use in the United States

Although we often hear of alternative energy sources like solar or wind power, they only make up only a small amount of the electricity that is produced and consumed in the United States.

Even though family homes make up the largest users of electric energy in the United States, “research indicates that most people only have a vague idea of how much electricity is consumed by their household appliances whereas most electricity consumers do not have any idea of how to save energy in an appropriate manner, and what sort of difference they could make by changing day-to-day behavior or investing in efficient measures” (Babcock 946).

Furthermore, “all forms of electricity generation have some level of environmental impact” (EPA 1). Unfortunately, most people do not realize how much of this overall electricity use comes from individual families. “The persistence of the myth that only industry is responsible for environmental harm and the difficulty individuals have understanding how their seemingly minor actions (changing a light bulb) can accumulate into more serious, widespread harm (polar bears drowning as the planet warms), contribute to the resistance of individuals to changing their environmental behavior” (Babcock 951).

A significant amount of energy consumption is taken up by individual purchases of manufactured items. For example, in 2007 254 million tons of waste was generated from industrial processes that are responsible for the manufacture of consumer products. Out of this total amount, 12% was plastic, which adds up to more than 30 million tons of plastic in one year (Plastic Recycling Facts 1).

In addition, “it takes about 15 million barrels of oil per year to make all of the plastic water bottles in America, according to the Container Recycling Institute” (Dorji, Panjaburee, and Srisawasdi 91). A total of thirty-eight billion water bottles alone are thrown away after they are used each year (Schriever 1). All of these bottles do not just disappear. Instead, they often end up in our seas and oceans.

As an engineer, I know that modern engineering design is developing in order to change the way energy is used. For example, the federal government is the largest user of energy in the United States, so federal engineers have focused on energy management. It is important to note that as buildings and other structures age, they use up more energy.

This problem could exacerbate the issues of energy conservation in future because the demand for new buildings is still on the rise. However, as a response to the problem of energy wastage by government buildings, some money is being invested to upgrade them. Did you know that buildings themselves cause 1/3 of all the greenhouse gases in the world? This trend is mostly fueled by the fact that the energy used to light and heat them is a major point of consumption.

In addition, the cement used to build most structures causes large amounts of greenhouse gas to be released to the atmosphere. Engineers know that if you have an aging infrastructure, like buildings that do not have enough insulation, and use old technologies, they will use more energy. Older buildings also use more energy. For example, pre-1980 office buildings in the United States use 10% to 15% more energy on average than post-1980 establishments (Arnold 1).

It will be very important for engineers to be as efficient as possible because most of the buildings and their mechanical systems will be in use for many years to come until approximately 2050. It is estimated that at least 60% to 75% of the buildings today will still be in use in 2050.

Therefore, “it is important, to focus on reducing energy use in existing buildings in order to cut CO₂ emissions and achieve sustainability, rather than concentrating on building new ones” (Arnold 1). Many buildings still in use today were built in the 1950s, and they use their original air-conditioning systems designed for a time when people were not worried about energy use. The Hancock building in Chicago first opened its doors in 1974; it used 1.1 million dollars of electricity in that year.

By 1985, this bill had almost tripled and it was more than $3 million. This gives an idea of what it costs to power a large building. Energy conservation is “not only good for the environment, but it is also good for the economy” (Dorji, Panjaburee, and Srisawasdi 91). Therefore, the goal of reducing energy in buildings by a certain percentage is being set across America. The key to energy sustainability in existing major buildings is ensuring they can be retrofitted and energy-managed successfully.

It is also important to note that around 75% of buildings that will be in existence by the year 2050 are already here today. Consequently, “unless the goal of reducing energy consumption in the existing buildings is achieved, countries will not be able to meet national commitments for reductions of emissions” (Arnold 2). In the case of the United States, the target is a reduction of 83% below 2005 levels by 2050.

Some of the methods that are being used to reduce energy use today include the installation of double-glass coverings on most of the walls and using the space between them as a climate-modifying space. This means that installing a second glass wall behind the outer window wall with programmable mechanical blinds between the panes.

Other energy saving measures include daylight saving lighting controls, variable speed drives, single pass outdoor air supplies and integrated chilled beams. Most of these energy-saving measures are incorporated into the lighting and other fixture, instead of the original energy inefficient dual duct systems (Arnold 2). Unfortunately, there are no good energy alternatives that can make a big impact on energy consumption.

To reduce the impact of too much energy consumption, companies and other large organizations are trying to reduce the amount of energy used on a regular basis through changes in their employees’ behavior. “Whereas one energy-efficiency approach includes technical improvements, such as increased heat insulation or replacing ventilation with volume flows, technical engineers are realizing that the behavior of people who work in organizations also contributes to energy consumptions” (Klonek and Kaufield 2).

Relying on companies to change engineering designs or the materials used represents only a small aspect of how energy conservation can be tackled. People use too much energy and people can easily reduce how much energy they use by changing their energy-use habits.

Even as Scientists and engineers are trying to find new ways to produce energy and new ways to reduce how much resources we use, most people worry about the consequences of resource use because of climate change and damage to the environment. However, “Habits and self interest as well as the inconvenience and cost of the new behavior and the unavailability of alternatives are examples of common barriers that must be overcome before individuals will change their behavior” (Babcock 951).

If people understood how important it is to conserve energy, maybe there would be a better chance of changing it. Nevertheless, research has shown that even getting people to use more energy efficient light bulbs has been a problem. Hope Babcock has spent a lot of time working to get people to use energy efficient lighting. She has worked toward getting people to change their personal behavior, and she has explored how to motivate people to become more responsible consumers of electricity and follow energy conservation habits.

The main thing to be done was to change to using compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) instead of traditional ones. “Up to ninety percent of energy produced by the traditional bulbs is lost as heat, but switching to CFLs is one way to prevent this energy loss” (Babcock 945). However, “getting individuals to switch bulbs is not as easy as one might think because of various barriers that stand in the way of changing environmental behavior.

Obviously, it is not easy to get people to change bad habits. Therefore, there is a need to come up with better energy conservation methods for the future. Many educators and the science community are working together to create educational programs for young people to teach them better habits at an early age. Educating students about electric energy consumption and conservation has been become an urgent issue.

Therefore, to try to increase awareness, an educational computer game was created. When the students played the game, it promoted to them that they only use electrical appliances for short amounts of time. The “results showed that the students’ learning achievement on energy consumption as well as their awareness on electric energy conservation improved in a significant way” (Dorji 91).

Several “Studies have pointed out that the educational computer games could engage the students in meaningful and motivational learning. But on other hand, without incorporating educational theory or applying teaching and learning strategies, the educational computer games might not be significant for a meaningful learning” (Dorji 92).

As awareness of the economic costs and environmental problems being caused by energy consumption increases, public schools have become more involved in promoting conservation education. Schools are a perfect place for teaching conservation habit, and they can reduce their energy use by 20–30% just with changes in student habits. In addition, in 2008, public school spent $8 billion just on energy costs.

A 20-30% decrease in this is worth a lot in terms of monetary resources. I am sure that the money could be better used in a better way for children’s education (Schelley 141). Schelley et al also showed how an educational program was successful in helping students change habits.

The program says the authors helped with sustainability education and the adoption of sustainable behavior. Public schools are a great place to help children learn by having role models. School facilities, school governance, and school culture all together support conservation and environmental practices.

In addition, these entities can create an organizational culture that values conservation. “Public schools are an ideal location for energy conservation measures; schools can reduce their energy use by 20–30% with a variety of behavioral and operational strategies” (Schelley 144).

However, energy conservation requires a lot of effort although its results are worthwhile. “Embracing sustainable behaviors in the daily activities of a school requires the support of an organizational culture” (Dorji 92). Organizational culture “includes the shared values, norms, and practices in an organization” (Schelley 145). Schelley claims that the more people know the more attention they pay to making changes.

“Public awareness of the economic costs and environmental impacts of energy consumption, specifically the impact of carbon emissions on global climate change, has stimulated individuals and organizations to consider strategies for reducing energy consumption” (Schelley 144). Not only are schools promoting education for energy conservation, changing the habits of students helps with the school’s own energy savings.

Some of the programs that were developed include the school-incorporated promotions for energy saving. The research study involving school-incorporated promotions for energy saving showed that the program had the capacity to achieve significant results. For example, the school district encouraged student groups to create an energy conservation program.

The “students developed a “Thanks a Watt” campaign where the students put signs above light switches reminding teachers, students, and staff to turn off the lights when they leave the room” (Schelley 144). Another idea the students developed was to paint trashcans with bright images and colors, but the recycling bins all look the same. So, students became more conscious of recycling (Schelley 152).

Charlotte NC had a contest for elementary schools to see who could design the best energy conservation posters. Schools are a great place to teach young people better energy habits because they spend a lot of time there, and the habits can be observed by the children when adults practice them.

“Sustainability education involves several key principles, including the important role of modeling” (Schelley 144). According to research on teaching sustainability education, there are four identified sources of modeling that significantly shape student perceptions and behavior—individual role models, facilities and operations, governance, and school culture” (Schelley 146). In my opinion, schools should be working toward meeting these four goals.

There are many things that ordinary people can do in their daily routines to help conserve energy. For example, that if people take showers instead of baths, this would save water. In addition, washing clothes in cold water saves a great amount of water in the long run. These simple practices are often taken for granted but they can save a lot of energy in the end.

Other energy-saving practices that are often overlooked include, not using the cardboard sleeve on coffee drinks, using bars of soap instead of detergent in plastic bottles, and shutting off all appliances including computers when they are not in use. It is also prudent to turn off lights when one is not using them. Buying non-biodegradable items such as Styrofoam cups is also contributing to environmental hazards.

In addition, it is important to try to avoid using disposable items like paper towels because this has a negative effect on the environment. Instead, it is advisable to use cleaning towels that can be washed and reused. If people reduced their house heat by a few degrees, this would have a big impact. It also helps to buy products that have less packaging, which use fewer resources and so less energy. It is better to use a microwave to reheat food rather than the stove.

Recycle whenever possible because this habit is one of the most significant conservational practices. All the above tips and pointers could have a significant effect on the conservation of energy. It is also important to note that the efforts towards achieving energy conservation mostly rely on the individual as opposed to concerted efforts by the government and other combined forces. For example, it is likely for individuals to ignore conservational-relevant practices because they appear insignificant to the end result.

However, research has indicated that the current energy conservational efforts began with seemingly insignificant actions by individuals. Consequently, it is seemingly insignificant individual actions such as foregoing Styrofoam and paper towels that have the biggest chance of reversing the effects of environmental degradation and the subsequent climatic changes.

By just changing towards a few of these practices, individuals can make a big difference in the conservation efforts. For example, “If every one of the 110 million households in the United States replaced a conventional sixty-watt incandescent bulb with one CFL, the energy saved by that small action would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million people” (947).

Research is being done to help people use less energy in their homes. Adedokun and Oladosu describe a new remote control that can help people safely turn their appliances on and off whenever it is necessary. This research is informed by the fact that most people are either ignorant or not well versed with good electrical appliance and switch etiquette. For example, many people forget to turn off their appliances, and most do not realize how much energy something like a computer screen being left on can use.

But a Global System for Mobile devices based remote control system has been developed to control and monitor electrical devices using mobile phones. A text message is used to turn off an appliance. The authors provide good information about the technical aspects of the device and how much energy is used by electrical appliances.

This would be good for my paper because it is about the need for homeowners to pay more attention to how they use energy, and it is offering a convenient and easy solution. Currently, it is not clear how much each American household appliance uses in terms of electricity because this has never been a major issue in the efforts towards energy conservation. On the other hand, homeowners are only provided with an overall number of their total electrical consumption.

However, the responsibility of determining which products consume most of the power is left upon electricity consumers. It is important to note that electricity consumers are often ill equipped and they have no way of determining the average electrical consumption of each household appliance.

In future, the codes that are used to determine the actual rates of energy consumption should be simplified in order to make them understandable to ordinary users. Currently, only a trained electrician has the capacity to determine the total energy consumption of any electrical appliance.

Climate change has presented the world with an actual crisis that has proved to be a threat to the social fabric of the United States. However, if people really want to make a difference there are many things they can do. Nevertheless, the solutions to the problem of energy consumption and conservation require individuals to alter their habits and lifestyles. Most people do not want the inconveniences that are associated with energy conservation.

Consequently, even though governments and other institutions have made considerable changes to their processes, individuals are still reluctant to take action. I am wondering if people really knew how these small changes mattered a lot if they would still be so careless. Although most people do not think that their actions have much of an impact, if everyone changed just a few things, energy conservation would be improved.

It is no longer viable to wait for governments to solve the problem of energy conservation when as individuals we have all the tools that can change this situation. The problems of energy conservation are mostly caused by individuals, so it will take these same people to change their habits in order to solve this global problem.

Works Cited

Adedokun, G., And J. A. Oladosu. “Development Of A Gsm-Based Remote Control System For Home Electrical Appliances.” Acta Technica CorvininesisBulletin Of Engineering 8.1 (2015): 77-80. Academic Search Complete.

Arnold, David. “Reducing Energy Use In Older Large Buildings.” ASHRAE Journal 57.1 (2015): 52-59. Academic Search Complete.

Babcock, Helen. “Responsible Environmental Behavior, Energy Conservation, and Compact Fluorescent Bulbs: You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But Can You Make It Drink?” Georgetown University Law Center. 2009.

Biello, David. “10 Solutions for Climate Change.” Scientific American.

Dorji, Ugyen, Patcharin Panjaburee, And Niwat Srisawasdi. “A Learning Cycle Approach To Developing Educational Computer Game For Improving Students’ Learning And Awareness In Electric Energy Consumption And Conservation.” Journal Of Educational Technology & Society 18.1 (2015): 91-105. Academic Search Complete.

Klonek, Florian E., and Simone Kauffeld. “Talking With Consumers About Energy Reductions: Recommendations From A Motivational Interviewing Perspective.” Frontiers In Psychology 6.(2015): 1-7. Academic Search Complete.

Knudsen, Laura. “Energy Conservation, Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Lee, Lung-Sheng, et al. “The Effect Of Hands-On ‘Energy-Saving House’ Learning Activities On Elementary School Students’ Knowledge, Attitudes, And Behavior Regarding Energy Saving And Carbon-Emissions Reduction.”Environmental Education Research 19.5 (2013): 620-638. Academic Search Complete.

Waste Not, Want Not’ 2014, Better Nutrition, 76, 4, pp. 54-57, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost,

Owen, David. “The Efficiency Dilemma.” The New Yorker.

Samuelson, Charles. “Energy Conservation: A Social Dilemma Approach.” Social Behavior. 5.1 1990. Print.

Schelly, Chelsea, et al. “How To Go Green: Creating A Conservation Culture In A Public High School Through Education, Modeling, And Communication.” Journal Of Environmental Education 43.3 (2012): 143-161. Academic Search Complete.

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