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How to Take Control of Your Energy Use, One Minute at a Time

| Wednesday December 17th, 2008 | 0 Comments

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With the recent announcement of Obama’s green team things are looking encouraging for massive change happening in terms of how our government interacts with and takes action on the pressing environmental issues. You might be wondering, how can I too make a difference? Or more immediately, how can I save money in these turbulent economic times?
The answer is all around you: Your computer you’re reading this on, the light above you, and out in the kitchen, the refrigerator, your oven, and a host of other things. Each using electricity, many whether you have them switched on or not.
But how can you tell how much? How can you tell how much difference switching one thing out for another has? What keeping your lights off when you’re not in the room does? Typically, it’s been mostly a hindsight sort of thing, looking at your energy bill. And even then, you have no way of telling what’s happening on an individual appliance basis.
Until now.


Greenbox is a system that allows you to know, per component, per minute, how much electricity is being used, at what cost, and in getting to know your usage patterns, it gives specific recommendations.
What sort of difference can this make? Greenbox puts it well when they say:

If 30% of us reduced our electricity usage by 20%, we would save over $8 billion per year on our energy bills, reduce emissions by 105 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year and avoid $10 billion in construction of new power plants. This is the equivalent of 35 coal fired power plants operating 24 hours per day.

No small impact. And from the sound of it, not terribly difficult to achieve. Really, most of it is just having greater awareness of what you use, and how you use it. They’re not proposing people radically change the way they live. Though some would say this is the only way to make enough of an impact. And Greenbox could be used for that end as well.
How does GreenBox work? It’s a web based interface that works on several different levels, from high level and broad to extremely fine grained. A wise move on their part, because not everybody assimilates and makes use of information the same way.
It ranges from pie charts showing what percentage of your use takes place during peak and non peak times, to what your carbon footprint is, complete with comparisons to, for example, the number of miles driven in a car to get those same emissions. And, giving useful context, it lets you compare your usage to a similar house, anonymously.
GreenBox is currently being tested both on the utility level and in home. If you’re interested in knowing about when it becomes publicly available, go here.
Readers: What other tools do you know of to help achieve greater personal energy efficiency? What practices beyond the usual do you do you do in your life that have proven effective? Any competitions you’ve had with friends/family/coworkers on being green?
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is “bottom lining” complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.
Image credit: getgreenbox.com


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