I had the good fortune to meet with a group of Chelmsford clergy this week to discuss the Chelmsford Saves energy efficiency initiative and how they might help with outreach. It was affirming to hear others discuss the importance of conservation and some good ideas were developed, but one barrier mentioned was the pessimistic feeling a person may have that their individual impact on a global problem is not significant. I'm sure this feeling is one that clergy hear all the time and in many contexts other than energy efficiency!
Fortunately with energy efficiency it is relatively easy to dispel this gloom. The electricity and fossil fuels we save are measurable and we can easily quantify how much difference a person or even specific actions can make. For example, replacing an incandescent light bulb with an LED saves about 50 watts of electricity, which amounts to 146 kW-hr if it's on 8 hours/day for a year. That's equivalent to 222 pounds of CO2 saved every year with a single bulb! The power of one simple action is multiplied by the many hours that we use lighting or appliances, and the savings add up quickly.
If you're still not convinced, think about the global scale. The International Energy Agency (IEA) finds that global savings from energy efficiency are greater than the output from any other single fuel source – including coal, oil, nuclear, and gas. Energy savings in the 11 IEA member countries in 2012 were greater than the total energy consumption of the European Union, effectively displacing the energy demand of a continent! Obviously the potential for saving resources and reducing emissions is high, and the best part is that it's within the control of each of us. Massachusetts has led the US in energy efficiency over the last 4 years due to incentives from programs like MassSave, and we can accomplish a lot more if everyone is involved.