It's Not Easy Being Green! Unplug

While I am good about turning lights off and running my dishwasher and washing machine on full loads (that could be laziness), I never thought about what’s plugged into the wall sockets all day. They’re ready when I need them. Fabulous. And that’s the end of that. Turns out these items are like vampires. Even when not in use, they suck out electricity.

If you think locally about this (as local as your wallet), projections are that 40% of your electric bill pays for these “phantom loads”. Want to think globally? If everyone in the United States shut down these phantom loads (not your refrigerator or it’ll just be unfortunate later, and I want no responsibility for that), we’d close 17 power plants. Seventeen power plants emit their own greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every day because we leave our flatirons plugged in.

So step one is “unplugging.” I’ve theoretically cut the cord on chargers, the toaster, lamps, televisions, and the shredder. Under my desk, I expected to see four cords. Who knew that router systems and cable modems need electricity? To make shutting off the office madness easier, I bought a power strip with an on/off switch. Then I shut down a computer that has been on—I am embarrassed to admit— for eight years (I stopped using it regularly 5 years ago). Computers that are never turned off produce more than a ton of carbon emissions in a year. Next up? Carbon offsets for much needed penance.

- Rosie Molinary, the author of Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina, lives in Davidson, North Carolina.