Though Wattzon has been around for over a year now, it’s a website that you should keep going back to. As one of the many ingenious ideas of inventor extraordinaire (and MacArthur Fellow, we might add) Saul Griffiths, this is a place where you can track with pretty reliable crowd-sourced accuracy exactly how much energy you use.
Going beyond some of the generic carbon footprint calculators that are sprinkled around the Internet, Wattzon sums all the energy you use in a year, regardless of the power source. This is, admittedly, one step removed from the concern of increasing carbon dioxide emissions that are a byproduct of fossil-fuel based energy sources. But getting this fairly complete perspective on personal power usage is a good way to identify areas where individuals can trim their energy consumption.
Check out Griffith’s talk from PopTech a couple years ago. It’s an illustrative look at both the complexity and the value of projects like Wattzon. And kudos to him for showing his math throughout the presentation; it’s always helpful to see exactly how figures of energy and power are calculated.
Speaking of energy, there aren’t too many places on the Internet where you can go for a comprehensive look at energy news and information. Yes, there are the run-of-the-mill Google and Yahoo news aggregators, but they cast an awfully wide net and it can be hard to tell whether the stories co...
Energy is invisible to the naked eye, but it is a part of every facet of our lives. In a new study, my coauthors and I investigated public perceptions of energy consumption to see how accurate people are in judging how much energy a variety of different activities and devices use.
In an online nationwide survey, participants were asked about the energy used and saved by household and transportation activities, among other behaviors. When asked about the most effective thing they can do to conserve energy in their lives, many Americans think of cutting back on activities (curtailment) rather than investing in home equipment or fuel-efficient transportation (energy efficiency) – this is the opposite of what experts recommend. There may be many reasons why people may think of curtailment rather than energy efficiency, as curtailing ones’ behavior does not involve any upfront costs.
However, the problem with curtailment is that it is hard to make sure people maintain these behavioral changes over a long period of time so that habit formation occurs. As individuals, we have a limited amount of attention and effort we can expend, so energy efficiency investments, if we can afford it, would provide a more effective option. In addition, about 20 percent of our participants stated that the most effective thing they could do was "turn off the lights" — a behavior that may not be very effective to address energy consumption and climate change.