By, Sibin Sabu (mechanical, 2010-14)
The world today is facing an almost insurmountable energy crisis. As our demands on Mother Nature keep increasing, more and more fossil fuels are being burnt. With our global economy currently outgrowing the capacity of the Earth to support, our early twenty first century civilization is facing grave challenges of possible decline and collapse. It is high time we unite in our efforts to protect our planet, and devise strategies to overcome the looming energy crisis.
It is impossible to construe a life without the timely availability of the various energy resources. It has become such an integral part of our lives. However, we need to conserve these energy resources because most of these energy is produced from fossil fuels, which require millions of years for its formation and are non renewable. This is where sustainable development comes into picture. It is in essence, the idea that the process of development should not damage the environment, and that development in the present should not compromise with the needs of the future generations. Let us take a look at the energy consumption in the different sectors.
Transportation has the fastest growing carbon emissions of any sector. Proliferating numbers of automobiles are a key reason. More than 750 million passenger cars are now on the world’s roads, with some 70 million new ones rolling out of the plants each year. Greater numbers means more and more problems, including traffic congestions, accidents, local and global pollution. With increasing population, and with life becoming more and more hectic in today’s world, the situation seems to be spiralling out of control.
It is the same story with the electricity sector also. Most people use it and see it as something that is infinite and probably don’t give a second thought about its source. And, even though electricity appears to be clean, the ugly truth is that, the majority of the electricity production comes from fossil fuels and nuclear power plants. Simply stated, the more the electricity used, the greater is the pollution, and the worse will be our habitat. Saving electricity doesn’t just save money; it helps in keeping the environment clean too. The misuse of energy cannot be excused. Thus, to reduce the amount of energy produced by the fossil fuels, the electricity consumption must be reduced and other renewable sources of energy must be developed.
Buildings account for nearly 70% of the total electricity consumption. Construction of green buildings is most helpful. In such buildings, we use the available natural resources like the solar energy, the wind energy etc to its fullest. The windows have multiple layers of glass with gases like argon, carbon dioxide etc sealing the airspace between them. It provides better insulation for the house. Tinted window films are used to reduce the heat gain, which keeps the room cool in summer. The location and orientation of the windows can be adjusted to get maximum natural lighting, and to get optimum air circulation in the building. Grasses can be planted on roof tops, and trees can be planted in the vicinity of the building. Hence, emission of green gases can be reduced.
The only major disadvantage is the high initial cost involved but it is compensated by the high savings, which brings down the break even time by a huge margin. It would be great to see educational institutions like ours invest in these buildings, and there what could be better than having a green building in our campus. The new buildings that come up in our campus can be designed in this energy efficient manner and it would be a wonderful sight to behold.
Many associations in a number of countries have established efficiency improvement targets for industries or plants. Some energy audit programs reward efficiency gains and lower emission levels with lower tax rates. Denmark’s green tax scheme is an example for this policy. These non renewable sources of energy will get used up at some point, but together we can postpone that date. As an individual, we can do our bit by behaving more responsibly, keeping in mind the golden saying “Energy saved is energy produced”. Here is a list of things that can be done to conserve energy:
- Switching off lights, fans and other electrical gadgets when not in use is a good start. But, there are many more ways in which can save energy for the future.
- CFL’s use one fifth of the energy consumed by traditional bulbs and lasts 8 times more. Though they cost more, they save us money because they are so durable and efficient.
- Diversify batch operations in night hours (10PM to 4PM) and plant shutdowns in peak hours (7AM-11AM and 6PM-10PM) to reduce the cost of electricity.
- Always pull the power plug on equipments such as playstations, CD players, computers and televisions after use. When the red light is shown, it means that it still leaks electricity because the equipment is in standby mode.
- Make optimum use of renewable sources like the solar and the wind. Drying clothes the natural way when possible is an example.
- We can recycle paper as it uses 90% less water and 50% less energy to recycle a paper than to manufacture a new one. It also produces 36% less CO2.
- Using 1L of petrol produces about 1kg of water vapour and 2.2kg of CO2. Walking, car pooling and using public transport can be made use of whenever possible. After all, today’s wastage is tomorrow’s shortage.
- Minimising use of microwave ovens which consume a lot of electricity and cooking with lid closed also helps.
- Avoiding rapid acceleration and braking, shifting gears smoothly and quickly, driving at optimum speed, switching off engines when not in use(during long and frequent traffic jams prevalent in our cities), doing proper checks and maintenance etc will help an efficient engine.
- Invest in a reusable bag so that you need not use plastic bags every time. Currently 1lakh tonnes of plastic bags are thrown away needlessly, equivalent to the weight of 70,000 cars with each bag requiring atleast 100 years to decompose.
- Buying durable goods and refillable items are also helpful.
Let us keep this in mind: Our everyday actions have far reaching consequences. It determines whether life on Earth will flourish or perish. So, one simple action, or a change in habit will go a long way in saving the planet.