Turn Things Off When You Go On Vacation

Finally – summer’s here, and for many of us that means vacation.  You can save money and energy while you’re away by turning off or unplugging as many things as possible.  Here are a few suggestions:

Hot water heater: why pay to keep water hot when you won’t be using it?  Most hot water heaters can will heat a full tank in a few hours at most, so just turn it on when you get back and you’ll likely not even notice a difference
Electronics: many electronics still use a bit of power when they are not on but are still plugged in, and collectively they add up.  So pull the plug on as many of them as you can before you go.  (IE entertainment electronics, cordless phones, even garage door openers)
Water main valves: not so much an energy saver as peace of mind, because a leak or burst can make quite a mess when no one is around

Enjoy your summer break, whatever it is – and turn things off before you go to get a break on your power bill too!


The special case of e-waste

Not long after the age of computers came the age of e-waste: unneeded, broken or obsolete electronics.  It’s noxious stuff, typically containing toxic materials like lead, mercury, arsenic and chromium.  And we generate an awful lot of it: as much as 50 million tonnes every year, according to the UN.  (In particular, the global transition to flat-screen monitors and televisions has produced a big bump in the amount of e-waste generated.)

It’s very important to keep e-waste out of our landfills where it can cause long-term contamination of the surrounding environment – so here are some options:

  1. Reduce, by buying less stuff and by using electronics until they wear out instead of upgrading frequently.
  2. Reuse, by donating your electronics for refurbishment or salvaging of useful parts; in Canada, check out Computers for Schools
  3. Recycle all electronics, to keep their toxins out of the environment.  Click here for programs in New Brunswick; here for programs elsewhere in Canada; and here for the US.

And – you can use Greenpeace’s annual Guide to Greener Electronics to help you choose greener electronics brands.