Welcome to Green Boot Camp

Welcome to Green Boot Camp blog, a 52-week program to help you become a greener you in 2008. This is the companion blog to The Lean Green Family (formerly Suddenly Frugal).

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Week Four--The Light Way

Now that you've successfully changed out all of your incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent ones (or at least are in the process of doing so), here's a new light-related habit I'd like you to try for Week Four: turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. For some folks, this might already be second nature. But for others, with a home that always looks like it's lit up for Christmas day, this notion of turning off the lights when you leave a room may seem like a foreign concept.

One way to avoid constantly having the lights on is not to turn them on at all. Simple, obvoius yet true.

For instance, on bright days throw open your shades, curtains and window treatments, and let the sun shine in. See how many hours you can go without any lights on, using only the natural light from outside to illuminate the inside. Make it a game. Can you apply your makeup without the lights on? Can you load and unload the dishwasher without the lights on? Can you find a new, sunny spot in your home to read the morning paper, so you can do it without the lights on?

Of course, if you live in a perpetually dark home, because it is northern facing or you live in the woods, then I wouldn't recommend keeping the lights off during the day. I don't want you to keep bumping into furniture or stubbing your toes or giving yourself a headaches because your home isn't properly lit, and you're struggling to see. No, the idea here is to do more with less light--and save money and energy in the process.

As far as the lights go, if you must turn one on, then turn on the smallest, least energy-using one when you need a light. In my kitchen, for example, I've got a big window that keeps it pretty lit during the day. But sometimes the counters themselves are kind of dark. So we installed inexpensive fluorescent, under-cabinet lighting that I can switch on just to light up a counter where I might be working. We have three counters in our kitchen, each topped with cabinets. So we have under-cabinet lighting above each counter, and this is what I tend to use when I need task lighting--that is, lighting to, well, light up a specific task that I'm doing. Can you figure out ways to do the same? When you're working in your home office, do you really need to turn on your overhead light or that expensive halogen floor lamp (assuming you haven't traded it in for a more energy-efficient model)? Why not just turn on your desk lamp and make do with that?

Then, when you're done doing whatever it is you're doing in a room, turn the light off when you leave. We have a joke in our house that we use whenever someone forgets to turn out the light. Usually if we come across a fully illuminated yet empty room, we'll shout out, "What are we, PECO?" (Our electric company is PECO.) Or instead of yelling at a specific person who forget to turn out the lights, we'll call out, to no one in particular, "Hey, PECO, you forgot to turn out the lights!" Usually, whomever is "PECO" that night recognizes his or her mistake, and runs to turn off the light that he or she forgot to turn off earlier.

We've spent months begging our kids to please turn out the lights when they leave a room--most specifically their own bedroom in the morning after they've gotten ready for school--and finally the message has sunk in. These days, if I head upstairs after the kids have headed off to school, I'll usually find peace and quiet and absolute darkness.

I hope that if you follow some of this advice for your Week Four habits, you'll soon enjoy absolute darkness--and lower electricity bills--in the near future.


Krista said...

I don't know what it is about kids being incapable to turn a darn light off! Even though we have been telling them since they were pre-school age to turn a light off when you leave a room, it never sunk in.

Finally we came up with a plan. We offered them whatever we saved on one months bill. They ran around the house turning stuff off left and right. Our oldest checked to make sure we had no phantom loads, and made signs reminding us to turn lights off. lol

The offer was only good for one month, but since they say it takes 21 days to form a habit, one month was all it took.

Michael T said...

Krista--that's an awesome plan. Leah--thank you for this blog. I'm really excited about it...I found it this morning and caught up backreading on my lunch break. Keep up the excellent tips!