Feb 102008
Authors: Calvin Setar

Shane Bondi stumbled out of bed one morning, blindly made her way to the kitchen and turned on a pot of coffee. Something she’d done a zillion times before without ever thinking of the environmental ramifications.

But for some reason, this day was different.

The English graduate student already considered herself to be fairly concerned with global warming. That coupled with the fact that she’d recently written a paper on climate change in English professor John Calderazzo’s class, spurred her to further educate herself on the subject.

She decided that since the global warming is a highly disputed topic, she’d be better off forming opinions through personal research.

So she headed out into the field of energy and power to find out for herself just what our nation contributes to global warming.

One of her first discoveries was that to make her daily morning pot of coffee required one ounce //– about a golf ball-sized chunk — of coal.

“At first glance this may not seem like much,” Bondi said. “But looked at on a nationwide or worldwide scale, the numbers take on a whole new appearance.”

She found that brewing coffee everyday for a month takes about two pounds of coal – nearly 25 pounds a year.

The average American household uses 700 kilowatt hours of electricity per month, or 7,476 pounds of coal a year.

In August, Bondi started making phone calls and trips to Fort Collins Utilities’ wind power plant on Colorado’s border with Wyoming and Rawhide Energy Station just outside Fort Collins to expand her understanding of climate change.

“I found that at my house we used about 125 kilowatt hours of electricity per month, which is equal to about 1,335 pounds of coal a year,” she said.

Distressed at what she considered to be her large amount of energy consumption, Bondi decided to cut back drastically.

“I switched to green energy, which costs about a penny per kilowatt hour more than regular electricity, changed from normal light bulbs to fluorescent because they last longer and use about a third of the amount of energy, unplugged any and all unused or unnecessary appliances, and just generally paid more attention to my energy consumption,” she said.

By employing these simple techniques she was able to cut her electricity usage in half without making any significant alterations to her daily activities. Because her bill was so much lower, she easily made up for paying slightly more for renewable energy.

Lisa Kokes, a spokesperson for Fort Collins Utilities, said in an e-mail that out of their nearly 62,000 Fort Collins resident, only 1,777, or about three percent, use green energy.

CSU on the other hand, was slightly better; about five percent of on-campus residents subscribe to green energy, said Tonie Miyamoto, director of Communications for Housing and Dining services in an e-mail.

Bondi’s ultimate goal is to present people both with her findings and the tools they can use to lower energy consumption.

“I want to help people find a middle ground between complete ignorance, and having complete eco-guilt,” she said. “I want to show them how easily they can lower their energy consumption, but I don’t want to wag my finger at anyone.”

For more information on switching to wind energy with Fort Collins Utilities call 970-212-2900.

Staff writer Calvin Setar can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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