Saturday, September 17, 2011

Post Guateca for Rory Aronson

The Guateca experience has opened my eyes to a whole new way of analyzing situations, and making better decisions for myself, the environment, and the people around me. In particular, Pete's Energy class has made me very aware of the energies that I consume, where they came from, and all of the costs associated with them. Upon arriving back in San Luis Obispo, I have found so many potential changes that I want to make with my current lifestyle, especially regarding energy efficiency.

Perhaps the most obvious change so far at my house has been the installation of a composting toilet. Estimating an average of 4 toilet flushes a day (for my house of 4), the use of our composting toilet will prevent the use of over 2,000 gallons of potable water per year. This same volume will also be reduced from the normal load on the waste water treatment plant!

More exciting than my composting toilet though is the installation of Smart Meters in San Luis Obispo. Before Guateca, I would not have been excited about this. But now, I have the ability to explain to my housemates and neighbors (over cocktails, of course) what this means in terms of real time pricing, and the savings that will be realized from this change.

The arrival of a calendar regarding action zones for a Diablo Canyon emergency also instigated conversation about energy and nuclear power. This was followed up by even more conversation a few days later when an earthquake hit Virginia, giving a strong shaking to the North Anna nuclear plant.

I also became inspired to purchase a Kill a Watt (watt meter) and begin an energy analysis of my house in order to increase efficiency and understand how much power everything uses. The Kill a Watt hooked up to our refrigerator:

I purchased an LED light to test out in my room and I am so satisfied with it that I plan on retrofitting the whole house with LED lighting in the coming month. A shocking discovery I made was finding a 60 watt incandescent bulb inside my refrigerator! Who decided to put a heater inside my fridge?!

With the experience I gained being in the water heating group, I have started construction on a solar water heater for my house. The first day I was able to heat 5 gallons of cold water to luke warm. To improve, I want to install a couple more reflectors and a mini greenhouse over the tank to reduce wind cooling.

And as a way to reduce the use of natural gas to heat water for cooking, I now place a pot of water outside every morning with some mirrors pointed at it. Its so easy to save our resources!

Guateca has inspired me to change my lifestyle. I now know the technical reasons of why each technology or method is superior than the conventional ways. I love having friends over and answering their questions about the technologies and holding great discussions on what I now see as one of the huge problems of my lifetime: Energy.

Post Guateca, I look at how the appropriate technologies we developed, and the ideas we discussed, are all so great, and often so simple. I now look in the mirror and am trying to apply these methods to my life as well.