Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Utility Stats: Knowledge is (saving) Power

Last month I went to a presentation by an energy utility consultant, of sorts, and they were describing a very basic, free service they offer to help corporate and governmental clients track their utility usage.  They take copies of the client’s utility bills from the last 12 months and then plot the usage data on a single graph. They said that, often, this simple task can help highlight major inefficiencies and sources of waste that the client might not be aware of.

Sometimes it’s as basic as expecting certain utilities to go up in the summer and down in the winter, and looking for exceptions to these common trends. Other times, it’s just a matter of looking for big unexpected spikes that aren’t linked to changes in productivity, etc. Listening to the presentation, I realized that I could do the same thing for my own utilities at home.

So, I started a spreadsheet to track our utilities. Every month when I get a new bill, I enter that month’s data into the spreadsheet before I pay the bill. I’ve always assumed that I would notice a huge change in monthly usage just by paying the bill each month, but to be honest, my memory isn’t that good, and even the more subtle changes can offer insight.

Here are my graphs for water, electricity and gas, from the three months that we’ve lived in Urbana so far:

It’s a little early to draw any conclusions, but I’m excited to keep track and see if any surprises pop up. I’ll keep you all posted of future developments. 

It’s worth noting that I couldn’t have done this before we moved to Urbana, because we’ve lived in apartment buildings where the utility bills were divided equally between everyone in the building, instead of being linked to our individual usage. But for anyone who does get stats on their individual usage, this simple step doesn’t take more than a minute each month and can be helpful to make sure your usage is what you think it is.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Two-Year Recap

As mentioned in my previous post, it's been two years since I last blogged here. I thought it might be nice to just give a quick recap of what has changed in my life during that time:

1.  I finished a master's degree in Environmental Sciences & Policy.  So you know--I'm, like, an expert now.
2.  I left my job at a big environmental nonprofit, where I worked for four-and-a-half years (including part-time while I earned the master's degree).
3.  I moved half-way across the country, from DC to central Illinois.
4.  I got engaged to the previously-mentioned crafty boyfriend.
5.  I started a new job at a big state university, where my title is Sustainability Specialist. (What did I tell you? Expert.)

Those are the big things. And interestingly enough, they all happened within the last 6 months.  Before that, I was just busy working and going to school, hence no time for blogging. But now that I'm settling into a new job, home, city, relationship status, etc., I've realized that graduate school provided me with an outlet that I originally wanted from this blog, and which I have found myself wanting again, now that I'm out of school. So here we are, starting back up.

The life changes listed above will definitely lend themselves to some blog topics, from the differences in my car-free lifestyle in moving from the nation's capital to a small city in the midwest, to trying to plan an environmentally-benign wedding with 300 guests. So, you can look forward to those. And I'll look forward to having an outlet for all my sustainability-related ponderings.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hi, it's me again

My last post was October 18, 2009- a little over two years ago. I thought about deleting this blog countless times over the past two years, but a tiny voice inside told me to keep it, and I was never sure why. I'm glad I did, though, because two years, a master's degree, and 705 miles later, I have now found myself wanting to blog again. Go figure.

So, I won't beat myself up for taking a two-year hiatus, I'll just slip back into it like nothing happened. I hope you don't mind.

Amelia-as-blogger: take-two.