What do you think of when you hear the word ‘waste’? Odds are that you pictured trash, surplus food, or some form of a landfill. Did you picture coal fires and your electric bill? Probably not. The truth is that energy waste is ever-present and just as threatening to the environment as solid wastes are.
This article is going to be broken down into three parts:
- Where does energy come from
- What are the repercussions of using non-renewable energy
- What can we do to help conserve energy daily
Where Does Energy Come From?
For the purpose of this article, we are speaking solely about electricity.
There are numerous sources of energy and (thankfully) sources of renewable energy are increasing due to research. The main sources of electrical energy are chemical energy, thermal energy, kinetic energy, nuclear energy, solar energy, and rotational energy.
Chemical energy is energy that is stored and needs to be released. The most common way to release this energy is through combustion. Chemical energy is what we speak of when we talk about fossil fuel usage. It can include burning coal, oil, natural gas, or biomass (wood, solid wastes etc).
Thermal energy is energy created from heat. This can include the same things as chemical energy, but adds on heat from underground springs and more.
Kinetic energy is probably the one we are most familiar with from childhood classes. Kinetic energy is produced through movement. Where electricity is concerned, however, kinetic energy comes into play with wind turbines or water movement.
Nuclear energy is becoming more popular as well. This energy is one that is stored inside atoms and molecules. When you release nuclear energy, it can also release radioactivity and thermal energy.
Solar energy is energy that is captured from the sun through the light rays. The heat from the sun’s rays is also a form of thermal energy.
Rotational energy is created using spinning such as a windmill.
With all these types of energy sources, which ones are most popular? Currently, chemical energy is what most electrical grids are using as their main source for providing electricity. Solar energy and rotational energy are also starting to gain ground as forms of renewable energy.
Renewable energy is just that- energy that can be recreated and infinite. Unfortunately, non-renewable energy is exactly opposite, with limited amounts of fossil fuels left to provide for the demand in energy.
So, whats all the fuss about non-renewable energy, anyway?
Repercussions of Non-Renewable Energy Sources
The first thing to be noted about non-renewable energy sources is that we as a world are running low on them. Remember that these sources include coal, oil, and natural gas – to name a few.
The processing of fossil fuels creates quite a few problems for the world and the creatures and plants that live on it. One of these problems is atmospheric destruction.
Atmospheric pollution is created when fossil fuels are processed for electricity. During the processing, the fuels emit greenhouse gases – namely carbon dioxide- which damage the ozone layer of the atmosphere. Not only is this bad for future of the planet, but within our own lives it affects respiratory health drastically. With more greenhouse gases in the air, the worse off your respiratory health will be since you are not designed to process harmful chemicals. When we source fossil fuels from below the ground and release it into the air, we are also disrupting the amount of carbon on earth. Fossil fuels store carbon within them and the only way to release that carbon (as noted above) is through combustion- which produces heat. This heat throws the balance of the earth’s temperature out of wack much faster than would have naturally occurred- making it harder for animals and plants to adapt to.
With crude oil there is not only the atmosphere and human health to consider, but the threat of an oil spill can (and has) contaminated large bodies of water which take out wildlife and harm human health.
Natural gas is another popular fuel used and is made up of methane. To get natural gas, companies use a process called hydraulic fracturing / fracking. This uses high pressure from water to break up rocks below the earths surface which releases the natural gas stored within them. If a rock is too tough to split open, acid can be poured to dissolve it or small pieces of sand and/ or glass can be used as alternative methods of opening the rocks. Natural gas is what we typically use for heat and cooking, however it can also be used for electrical energy, a/c units, and more. One of the most horrible effects of sourcing natural gas is that it has the ability to cause small-scale earthquakes from breaking up the ground with the high pressure water. Also, the water that is mixed with the chemicals below ground has the potential to run into clean water sources which makes daily tasks such as bathing and drinking unsafe.
All in all, natural gas is still a cleaner source of energy when looking at its other non-renewable counterparts.
There are plenty of reasons to avoid non-renewable sources of energy, but while renewable energy starts to take hold there are a few things you can do to cut down on your personal energy consumption; therefore cutting down on the pollution and destruction created from the power plants and grids that supply your electricity.
On to the fun stuff! Fun because conserving energy not only promotes human health, clean energy, and a safe planet, but it save you money! Rad, right?
Before you can save energy, you should look at how much you’re currently consuming. This can be found on your utility bills or online in your account summary. Once you access your summary, you should be able to click and see a day-by-day view on energy consumption and track rises and falls with what you were doing that day. On a day where your energy consumption was really high, did you host a party and have all the televisions, speakers, stove tops, and lights on for most of the day?
If you aren’t aware of what you did each day, you could also start an energy-journal where you list out appliances used and lights left on in a normal day. Then, start implementing the tips below and record what you’ve done for energy conservation each day and then on your billing cycle you should be able to match up the days in your journal with your statement and see a gradual decline in energy use!
Tips & Tricks - Turn off lights when you leave the room -Unblock vents: upwards of 25% more energy is used to distribute air when you have furniture blocking a vent -In the winter, maximize use of southern windows by opening blinds and curtains to increase heat gain which will lessen the amount of energy needed to heat your space -In the summer, use solar screen, films, awnings, trees/vegetation to block direct heat on the east & west facing windows of your building. -Inspect your insulation and fix any gaps between doors and windows where drafts may exist. -Do regular maintenance on your heating/cooling equipment to keep them running as efficiently as possible -Remove unnecessary lamps and appliances -Turn off and unplug your electronic items when not in use -If you have the ability to, look into replacing your light bulbs and large appliance (fridge, washer/dryer, tvs) with more energy efficient options -If possible, install solar panels onto your building *If you are looking into new light bulbs, check out Energy Star's site on finding the perfect one HERE *Create an Energy Star Home Profile which will assess your home over all metrics and will also give you personalized recommendations for your building HERE *Tell your friends about what you're doing and get them on board! *Reward yourself with the extra money you'll have shaved off your electric bills! P.S. For my Missouri friends, here are some facts for you: 1. Only 4% of Missouri's energy comes from renewable sources 2. Coal fuels 3/4 of electricity in Missouri is coal-fired 3. 8/10 power plants run on coal * These facts are updated as of August 2017 from the U.S. Energy Information Administration