THE MATH
Proving just how powerful the role consumers play in sustainability requires a little bit of simple math, so grab a calculator and prepare to learn how seemingly small changes can benefit the environment considerably.
Example 1: Reducing Shower Times
One of the claims made in the video stated “If every person in the United States and Canada were to spend just one less minute during their next shower, they would save over 3.4 billion liters of clean, potable water.” Let’s prove why this is true.
According to the United States Environmental Protections Agency, standard shower heads use 2.5 gallons (9.46 Liters) of water per minute. This means that a standard shower uses 9.46 Liters of water every minute. According to the United States Census Bureau, the population of America was 324,304,407 as of December 31, 2016. According to Statistics Canada, the population of Canada was 35,151,728 as of 2016. Therefore, if each person in the United States and Canada were to spend just one minute less during their next shower, this equates to:
$$9.46\frac{L}{min}\times1\:min\times(324,304,407+35,151,728)=3,400,455,037>3.4\:Billion$$
Let’s see how this affects you financially. According to Environment Canada, an average Canadian citizen uses 274 liters of residential water per person per day. Assuming that you shower on average once per day, this means that each minute you spend in the shower accounts for 9.46 liters of your daily 274 liter water usage. Converting this to a percentage of overall residential water used per day yields:
$$\frac{9.46\:L}{274\:L}\times100\%=3.45\%$$
That is, one minute in the shower equates to about 3.45% of your daily residential water usage. Combining this information with the fact that average annual household water costs in Ontario range from $406 to $1,224 (depending on the municipality) with an average cost of $800, this equates to a potential savings of:
$$0.0345\times$406=$14.01\:(minimum)$$
$$0.0345\times$1,224=$42.23\:(maximum)$$
$$0.0345\times$800=$27.60\:(average)$$
This means that spending just one less minute in the shower could save you as much as $43.23 per person per year, and will save the average Ontario resident $27.60! If this doesn’t seem like much, shorten your showers by two minutes instead to double your savings to $55.20.
Example 2: Adjusting Thermostats
Another one of the claims made in the video stated “if every person in America and Canada adjusted their thermostat by just one degree, colder in the winter, warmer in the summer, this would save over 136 billion kWh of energy; enough to power the state of New York for almost an entire year!” Let’s prove the validity of this statement.
According to the United States Energy Information Administration, total electrical usage in America in 2015 was 3,900,159,909 MWh. According to Natural Resources Canada, Canada generated 639 TWh in 2014. Finally, the United States Department of Energy says that each degree that you turn down your thermostat in the winter, or equivalently each degree that you turn up your thermostat in the summer, generally saves 3% on your heating bill. Since electricity is ordinarily billed linearly (the rate of electricity remains the same over a given time period regardless of usage), this equates to a 3% reduction in overall power consumption. Assuming each American and Canadian were to adjust their thermostat accordingly (one degree higher than normal when it is warm outside, and one degree lower than normal when it is cold outside) for an entire year, the power savings equate to 3% of the total power consumed by both countries:
$$E=0.03\times(3,900,159,909\:MWh+639\:TWh)=136,175\:GWh$$
According to the New York Independent System Operator (a not for-profit corporation responsible for operating the state’s bulk electricity grid), the total electrical energy consumed in the state of New York for the entire year of 2015 was 161,572 GWh. Dividing the total power savings calculated previously by the yearly power requirements for the state of New York shows exactly how much of the year (as a percentage) the power savings could be used for:
$$\frac{136,175\:GWh}{161,572\:GWh}\times100\%=84.28\%=10.11\:months$$
Therefore, the power savings resulting from one degree thermostat adjustments can power the state of New York for over 10 months, almost an entire year!
Once again, let’s consider the individual financial savings resulting from these actions. Assuming you live in Ontario, the average annual household home energy cost is $2,358. Since each degree that you adjust your thermostat equates to 3% savings on your energy bill, this means an annual household savings of:
$$0.03\times$2,358=$70.74$$
That is, adjusting your thermostat by just one degree can save you over $70 per year. If you live in provinces other than Ontario, the savings can be even greater! For example, Prince Edward Island residents can save as much as 0.03*$3,553 = $106.59 per year (the average annual household home energy cost in P.E.I is $3,553). Why stop there? Once again, you can maximize savings by adjusting your thermostat even further; each degree will save you an additional 3% on your energy bill.
SMALL CHANGES ADD UP
The point of these examples is to demonstrate how small changes in human behaviour can add up significantly.
Both examples were chosen to isolate simple lifestyle adjustments that bring about meaningful resource savings, all while almost unnoticeably affecting home comfort. If you’re like most people, you probably can’t tell the difference between 70°F and 71°F, or you could use an extra minute in your morning routine. As an added bonus, doing what’s best for the environment is almost always the financially intelligent decision. Implementing the two examples discussed previously results in an average savings of $98.34 for Ontario residents. That’s an easy $100 back in your pocket.
Take these opportunities decrease your demand for resources; the environment and your wallet will thank you.
REFERENCES
This is a complete list of all sources used to make the video featured on the Home page. For further clarity, references consulted for all numbers and statistics used in calculations are also linked directly in the text for the examples provided above.
Standard shower heads use 2.5 gallons (9.46 Liters) of water per minute
An average Canadian citizen uses 274 liters of residential water per person per day
Total electrical usage in America in 2015 was 3,900,159,909 MWh
Average annual household home energy cost in Ontario is $2,358
U.S. cities and states honour Paris Climate Accord despite Trump withdrawing America