The conservation of energy includes reducing or eliminating unnecessary energy use and waste. Conservation involves the management and protection of energy resources so that they are not degraded, depleted or wasted and therefore, available on a sustainable basis for use by present and future generations. We, as individuals, may think there is not much we can do to help conserve energy, but through many simple behavioral changes, we all can do a lot. We live in a society where most of us do not give much thought to the energy that we use on a daily basis. Yet, by understanding the basics of energy, we are more likely to want to conserve it and use more efficient resources.

Americans use a lot of energy. In the year 1950, we used about 219 million Btu’s of energy per person a year. By the year 2000, we were using 351 million Btu’s per person a year. A Btu, or British thermal unit, is actually a measure of heat. A single Btu is defined as the amount of energy needed to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. It is about the amount of energy that would be released in one burned matchstick. We use two times as much energy as the British, two and a half times as much energy as the Japanese, and 106 times as much energy as those in Bangladesh! We need to think about what this means. We are a wasteful society and should focus on ways to save energy and prevent waste before we run out of non-renewable resources.

Here is a list that we all can work on to save energy. These are simple behavioral changes we all can make.

Home Energy Usage

  • Wash only full loads of laundry, use shortest cycle. This will save water and if you use cold water, you will also save energy. A washer uses about 540 watts of energy an hour.
  • Line dry clothes whenever possible. A dryer uses a lot or energy, about 5600 watts an hour! Compare that to the washer’s wattage as mentioned above. Buy some clothespins and hang those clothes up!
  • Use cold or warm water to wash clothes.
  • Buy the most energy efficient appliances. Most appliances can be found with energy star ratings on them. For more info, please visit Energy Star.
  • Use a gas stove instead of electric. For small food items, heat in the microwave instead of an oven. An oven or stove top takes a long time to heat up, and uses up more energy. The stove can use up to 1325 watts per hour while the oven can use up to 3400 watts per hour.
  • On the other hand, the microwave uses less energy because it takes such short times to cook food. It uses about 1450 watts per hour, but most people heat their food in minutes in the microwave.
  • Don’t put the fridge near the stove or other heat source. Cover pans while cooking to prevent heat loss. Heat or cool only the rooms you use most. Use fans instead of air conditioners. Make sure house is weather tight.

Water Conservation Reduces Energy

  • Take shorter showers.
  • Turn off water while brushing teeth or shaving.
  • Flush toilet only when necessary.
  • Only use a dishwasher for full loads. A dishwasher uses about 1180 watts of energy per hour.
  • Don’t use garbage disposals, try composting food waste.
  • Don’t wash your car, or wash it less frequently.

General conservation measures

  • Use a manual push mower.
  • Use a rake or broom instead of a leaf blower.
  • You can replace incandescent lights with compact fluorescent lights, and use natural light whenever possible.
  • Turn off lights and appliances when not in use!! (the golden rule)


  • For short trips walk or ride your bike.
  • Use a car pool system, or mass transit if possible.
  • Take the bus or train for longer trips.
  • Use one trip to accomplish as many tasks as possible so you are not running around all day wasting gas.
  • Buy an energy efficient car if possible.
  • Keep your car’s engine tuned and replace air filters regularly.
  • Obey speed limits.
  • Accelerate and brake gently, otherwise you waste a lot of gas.
  • Don’t warm up car for more than a few minutes.
  • Don’t overload the car.
  • Check tire pressure often.

Consumer Goods

  • Buy products with as little packaging as possible. The more packaging, the more waste is throw in the trash can.
  • Take your own cloth bags to the grocery store, or reuse plastic bags. Take unwanted plastic grocery bags to the sore for recycling.
  • Don’t buy disposable products! Instead try to buy things that will last a long time, or better yet, buy products that are made from recycled goods.
  • Recycle as much as possible.
  • Take time when buying new appliances, choose most energy efficient.

Websites for more info on conserving energy

  • Energy Savers
  • Energy Star Consumer
  • Energy Center
  • Alliance to Save Energy
  • US DOE
  • Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)

Helpful External Links

Certified Naturally Grown
Department of Environmental Protection
Environmental Studies Department
PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture)
Sustainable Energy Fund of Central Eastern Pennsylania