Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Vampire Slayers

In pursuit of the National Audubon Society's mission "...to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humantiy and the earth's biological diversity," Audubon South Carolina would like you to slay some vampires. No, you don't need any garlic, although it is a fine seasoning, or wooden crosses. All you need is a device like the GreenSwitch, which is wirelessly connected to outlets throughout the house and can simultaneously cut power to all those outlets.

Vampires are electronic devices that continue to draw power ("standby power") even when they are turned off. The U. S. Department of Energy estimates that 5% of a household's monthly electric bill is generated by devices in standby mode with projections as high as 20% by 2010. These devices include (but are not limited to):

internal clocks and sensors;
external clock displays and panel display LEDs;
remote control sensors;
battery rechargers and power-conversion packs;
communications between a base unit and a portable unit (as in a portable phone).

Reducing the amount of electricity we use not only helps us each financially, but it helps us all environmentally. Globally, climate change is a topic of discussion. Whether or not you believe that climate change is real or, if real, whether or not it is caused by humans, it is difficult to argue that less resource consumption and less environmental pollution are bad ideas. Add that both, along with personal financial savings, can be accomplished with the flip of one switch and we believe it is impossible to argue against such technology.

Individual household carbon footprints can be calculated at the Environmental Protection Agency's website. In 2000, the national average output was 1.392 lbs of carbon dioxide generated per kilowatt hour of electricity produced by carbon-based fuel. The average home uses 11,965 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, so a 20% (2010 predicted vampire rate) reduction in electricity equals a reduction of 3331 lbs of carbon dioxide per household. In 2001, there were 107 million homes in the United States alone, so our country could eliminate over 356 billion pounds of carbon dioxide per year by installing technology similar to GreenSwitch! (source EPA)

But wait! That's not all! As we have noted before, coal-fueled power plants also introduce mercury into the environment via smokestack emissions. If people eat the fish in these contaminated environments, like those in Four Holes Swamp, the mercury begins to accumulate in their bodies as well. Additonally, the coal ash from the same coal-fueled power plants can lead to groundwater and wildlife contamination (arsenic, selenium, strontium, mercury, and chromium) when it escapes waste storage ponds or landfills. Coal-fueled power plants are the norm for our area. The Post and Courier is currently printing a series of stories on this issue.

If the cost of energy is not an issue for you, we encourage you to look at the environmental effects of your energy consumption and make reductions wherever possible. Slaying vampires is an easy place to start!

Image by Mark Musselman

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