Feb 052008
Authors: Calvin Setar

Shane Bondi stumbled out of bed one morning, blindly made her way to the kitchen and turned on her coffee pot; something she’d done a million 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 issue of global warming was such a highly disputed topic, she’d be better off forming her opinion through her own research.

So she headed out into the field of energy and power to find out for herself just how much the United States contributed to global warming.

One of her first discoveries was that 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 per year.

In terms of overall energy use, the average American household uses 700 kilowatt hours of electricity per month, or 7,476 pounds of coal a year.

Since August, Bondi has made numerous 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 gather information 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, Bondi has been 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 her slightly higher cost for renewable energy.

Lisa Kokes, a spokesperson for Fort Collins Utilities, said in an email that out of their nearly 62,000 subscribers/accounts, only 1,777, or about three percent, of Fort Collins residents, use green energy.

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

She wants people to understand that worrying about the impact they have on the environment is an admirable quality and one all people should share, but that enjoying one’s life is also important.

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

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