Innovative Ways to Conserve Energy

While searching for innovative ways to conserve energy, I came across a site that has 365 ways to save energy.  Even though this is not a large scale project, there are 365 little ways in which you can change your daily life to save energy in your household.  The list includes more ways to save energy other than just unplugging things when they are not being used and turning off the lights when you leave a room.  I did not know that there were so many small things that are simple to change in your daily life that you can do to save energy.  The list includes different solutions that may not be truly innovative but they will help you conserve energy in your daily life and saving energy starts with yourself.  Things as simple as dusting lamp shades, buying in bulk, and drying one load of laundry after another can make a big difference.

I wish that I would have found this site when I was trying to find ways to decrease my daily energy use.  I would have known a lot more ways to save energy that would not be the generic ways that everyone else uses.  Also, the site helped me realize that I already do a lot of these things without realizing it!


Task of Informing Others

Although I had trouble coming up with a way to inform others about saving energy on campus, I did come up with a creative challenge for a few of my friends.  I challenged friends from three different apartments- four including my own – to track their energy use and document any changes that they made.

The first apartment was a friend of mine that lives in The Village with one other roommate. They are both girls so the first thing I heard from them when I asked them about their results was that they unplugged their flat irons and hair dryers and tried to take shorter showers.  They did not have trouble keeping lights off because they live in such a small space that one lamp lights up the entire apartment.

The second apartment was my roommate’s boyfriend’s apartment in Fox Ridge.  He and his three other roommates seemed to have more trouble than the others and were lazier about saving energy too.  When I asked them if they made any changes in the past two weeks they said they turned lights off more.

The third apartment was three friends that live in Pheasant Run, two girls and a guy.  They seemed much more enthusiastic about the challenge than others.  They took the bus more often, turned off lights when they were not in the room, unplugged phone charges, and even claimed to have taken shorter showers.  They said that they found it very rewarding to note the changes in their energy use and that they look forward to keeping it up.


Reflection of Energy Use This Semester

My efforts to decrease my energy use have actually been successful this semester.  The electric bill in our apartment went from approximately $40.00 per person to $30.00 per person.  My roommates even jumped aboard my energy saving efforts in the beginning but their efforts have been dwindling recently.  I have tried to pick up their slack by unplugging as many things as possible and turning off all unnecessary lights.  I have been pretty good about keeping up with this but I have noticed my efforts dwindling as well as finals approach.  I have been extremely distracted from my energy saving even though it should probably be habit by now.

I never even thought about the fact that taking the bus all semester has saved a lot of energy.  I do not have a university parking permit so I take the Blacksburg transit to campus daily.  The only place I drive my car to regularly is to work, which is less than 5 miles away from my apartment.  I even find myself walking to friends’ apartments instead of driving.  I would really like to have a bike for next semester so I may do that as well, it would cut back a lot more energy in the transportation department than I already have.

As for my snake terrarium, I have had to add a space heater and an under the tank heater to help keep the optimal temperatures.  I even had to buy a humidifier to help him during shedding which also sucks up energy.  The positive part about the humidifier is that it shuts off on a timer.  Being in this class has really made me notice a lot more details about energy than I would in the first place.  I would never think about timers or how much energy it takes to keep my snake terrarium at the right temperature if it weren’t for the assignment to keep track of my own energy use.

Now that this class has gotten me thinking about my energy use, I plan on continuing to track my energy throughout next semester and even past that as well.  I am more aware of my personal energy use and the energy use of those around me and I am interested in learning new, innovative ways to save energy.

Hot Springs in Alaska Used for Geothermal Energy

When searching under the tag “geothermal energy” on delicious, I came across the Chena Hot Springs Resort located 60 miles outside of Fairbanks, Alaska.  The resort is absolutely beautiful and even better, they take advantage of the near hot springs as an energy source for the resort.  The hot springs are not only used for energy but are advertised to soak in while viewing the northern lights above.

I think that this resort is amazing.  All of the pictures provided on their website are spectacular.  The resort is linked with Chena Power, which promotes renewable energy sources throughout the world to other businesses and individuals.  The Chena Hot Springs Resort is also home to Chena Fresh, the United States’ most northern greenhouse in the country.  At Chena Fresh they grow many foods available for the local population to buy.
The entire Chena Power company has a great thing going in Alaska and is very smart for taking advantage of their surroundings to help produce a more Eco-friendly resort for the public.


Conact Within the U.S. Department of Energy

While doing my research on the United States Department of Energy, I came across the Interagency Sustainability Working Group (ISWG) that focuses on developing energy efficient and sustainable buildings.  The ISWG has board members from many different government agencies and one of the board members from the Department of Energy is Mrs. Sarah Jensen.  I emailed Jensen about a month ago but it took a few weeks to get a response.  I asked Jensen what her involvement in the ISWG was and what current projects they were working on.

In Jensen’s response, she informed me that she is a co-chair of the ISWG with her partner Ken Sandler.  She defined the ISWG as “a meeting of federal buildings personnel every other month, who listen to presentations on energy management in buildings and methods of achieving legislated and executive order sustainability targets”.  Although Jensen is a co-chair of the ISWG, she says it is only about 10% of her job.  The other 90% is running a sustainable buildings and campuses initiative for the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) which I also mentioned in my early post about the US DOE.  She spends her time helping federal buildings become energy efficient, use less water, buy things consciously, recycle everything they can, and to reduce toxicity and support indoor air quality.

I am very pleased that I was able to get in contact with Jensen and found the information that she provided to be very interesting and even a possible future career for myself.  Jensen was extremely helpful and even offered to help me get in contact with other officials in the US DOE.

Reflecting on the Semester: Environmental Coalition

Although I did not plan on joining a group or club on campus at the beginning of the semester, I am really glad that UAP encouraged me to join the Environmental Coalition.  Since joining the EC, I have become involved in as many activities as my busy schedule allows and have had a great time doing so.  In order to gain official membership in the EC you have to earn 3 membership points and I am glad to say that I am an official member of the Environmental Coalition.  I have made some amazing friends and have been introduced to so many opportunities on campus such as study abroad, internship opportunities, and other activities to get involved on and off campus in the environmental world.  I am so much more informed about environmental concerns, not only here on campus but in the rest of the world as well.  The most interesting topic we learned recently was about Mountain Top Removal (MTR) and an opportunity to help end it during Spring break.  Through guest speakers and presentations at meetings, I have gained so much knowledge.  Joining the Environmental Coalition was the best decision I made all semester and I plan on continuing my membership for the duration of my time here at Virginia Tech

Wrapping Up the Semester with my Power Player

Since the last time that I posted about my power player, Erica Putman, a lot has happened in her campaign to advertise the software “FatBatt”. Just as a refresher, FatBatt is an energy-saving software that you can download on your computer to help save it’s battery life. She was working with a Virginia Tech marketing class in the beginning of the semester that was instructed to create a presentation to promote the software on campus and locally in the Blacksburg area.  The class gave their presentation to MiserWare and failed miserably.  The group gave their presentation on promoting the software but instead of focusing on the local aspect, they leaned towards national outreach.  After the presentation, Putman had to come up with a new plan to promote her software.

Putman decided to  focus on getting interns on campus at Virginia Tech to help her promote the software.  These interns will basically do what the marketing class was instructed to do but focus locally and promote on campus.  The interns will brainstorm a marketing campaign, then use what they’ve decided and execute it.  This campaign is likely to include posting flyers, boothing on the drillfield, making table cards, etc.  In the end, there are a million ways to advertise on campus and MiserWare will have to wait and see what their budget will be.

Putman has opened her internship to all Virginia Tech students that both have experience and are seeking some entry level experience in the green energy business world.  She came to an Environmental Coalition meeting a few weeks ago to speak about her software and encourage EC members to apply for the internship.  Putman has had many trials and tribulations over the past semester trying to attain her goal of local outreach and is one step closer now.

I am proud to say that Erica Putman was my power player for this class because throughout this process I have not only learned a lot about what it is like to work for a local green company, but I have also made an amazing new friend and contact in the business world.


Unconvential Ways to Save Energy: The Upside Down House

After watching the video on Rural Studio in class, I searched the internet for more unconventional ways to save energy in your household.  In my search, I came across an architect named Robert Nebolon that designed “The Upside Down House” for his sister and her family.  While the home uses alternative energy such as a natural gas fueled hybrid hydronic system for heat and hot water and a solar-powered photovoltaic system, Nebolon also incorporated some strange techniques when designing the actual layout of the house to conserve cool air.

Unlike most homes, the house has the bedrooms on the main floor and the kitchen and living areas upstairs.  This ensures that since heat rises, the bedrooms will stay cool at night.  The upstairs also contains a skylight which sucks the warm air out through a vent.  The house is built out of sustainable materials such as foil coated plywood, recycled teak cabinets, and floors made out of sustainably harvested hardwoods.  Every placement of doors, windows and rooms is carefully placed within the house to ensure cool air is saved.




Letter to the Editor

Michelle Sutherland

Editor In Chief

Collegiate Times

365 Squires Student Center

Blacksburg, Virginia 24061

Mrs. Sutherland,

I am a sophomore here at Virginia Tech and am currently taking an Urban Public Issues Course.  Our main public issue of the semester has been energy use and we conducted a survey to guage the public’s opinion.  The students within the class each collected results from 10 family members, friends, and other persons.  The survey had questions about daily energy use and alternative energy options.

The results were not very surprising when it came to public knowledge about alternative energy sources.  Many people are familiar with the more common sources such as on shore/off shore wind, wave and tidal, and solar energy.  The “don’t know” answer was filled in less than 10% for each of them, with solar having the least amount of “don’t knows” at about 3%.  Biomass and Nuclar energy on the otherhand both had at least 15% of the answers as “don’t know” when the survey takers were asked their opinion on the subjects.

The public would be much more interested in getting involved with moving to alternative energy sources if they were more informed.  Blacksburg, as a community, should work on trying to inform the public about their options in alternative energy to help develop a more sustainable community.  Out of all of the survey takers, 77% said they would either support or strongly support the development of a mix of energy uses.  We have the tools to inform the community, we just need to come up with a game plan.
Thank you,

A Virginia Tech Student

Class of 2015


Saving the Heat: My Energy Use

While my roommates and I have all changed our energy use  by buying new light bulbs, unplugging things when they are not being used, turning lights off, and taking the bus, our latest energy challenge has been our excessive use of heat.  We do not pay a heat bill for our apartment so we carelessly leave the heat blasting frequently and we need to change that.  In order to save heat in our apartment, I am going to look into the curtains that Joanne blogged about a few weeks ago and see if we can stop cranking the heat up so much in the apartment.