Eco Challenge: Unplug It!

If there was ever an instance of tiny actions adding up to big change, unplugging electronic appliances when they aren’t in use is it. The amount of energy sucked up by our computers, cell phone chargers, coffee makers, and more when they aren’t being used can account for up to 10 percent of all power used in U.S. homes and up to $100 annually in your household energy bills. All we have to do is unplug the darn things!

Thing is, unplugging all the electronic devices we use on a daily basis is a whole lot easier said than done. (It’s so inconvenient! I can never remember! Trust me, I hear you.)  But I figured, if I can make myself try for a week, maybe it’ll become a habit—helping me do something good for the planet and save money on my energy bill at the same time.

I’ll be chronicling my successes (and, let’s face it, failures) all week long. Won’t you join me?

Day 1: Monday

Foiled by forgetfulness!

I like to think of myself as a little greener than most: I limit my driving to wherever $50 a month of gas will get me (nowadays, not very far!), eat vegetarian foods that are mostly local and organic, keep the thermostat at 80 in the summer and 64 in the winter, and constantly nag my husband about remembering to turn off the lights. I also pride myself on always remembering to unplug the coffee maker after breakfast–despite the fact that I never think much about unplugging anything else when it’s not being used. Eco hypocrite? Guilty.

When I woke up this morning, I went around the apartment unplugging everything I could think of: the lamp on my nightstand, the toaster, cell phone chargers for me and my husband, my husband’s laptop charger, and the power strip I use for my laptop and cordless phone (the latter would get plugged back in pretty quickly, since I work from home, but while I ate breakfast they stayed unplugged!). While fixing breakfast, I plugged in the coffee maker, and also the blender (for a smoothie), which I usually keep stored away in a cabinet. Then I got distracted by something my husband was saying and walked away from the coffee maker and blender without unplugging them! I’m embarrassed to say that it wasn’t until over an hour later that I noticed they were still plugged when I got back from walking my dog (see the photographic evidence above!).

If something as simple as a conversation can distract me from unplugging, I’m a little nervous about how I’ll fare the rest of the week. Wish me luck!

Day 4: Thursday

I was hoping to give a progress update yesterday, but we had some server troubles that stopped me from being able to. I’m happy to report that despite Monday’s setback, I’ve remembered to unplug every electronic appliance that I’ve used! Here’s a rundown of a few of my successes and how I made them work:

Coffee maker and toaster No more problems with the coffee maker! I’ve pulled both appliances slightly away from the wall on the counter, so it’s easy to notice that they’re plugged in. When I bring the dishes over to the sink after finishing breakfast, I just unplug.

Cell phone I’ve been plugging the charger in when I sit down to start work in the morning  and let me phone charge next to me on my desk. That way, it’s easy to notice when the phone is finished charging, and I can unplug the charger right away.

Stand mixer and food processor I used both this week to make a loaf of sourdough bread and a batch of maple almond butter. Remembering to unplug them was easy, though; I like to move both appliances out of the way so I can clean the counter underneath them after I’m done using them. When I do that, I also unplug.

Laptop I try not to use my computer much after work. So at the end of the day before I start dinner, I shut down the laptop, unplug the charger, and shut the office door. Easy!

I’ve been taking care of most of the unplugging on my own, even unplugging my husband’s cell phone charger after he left in the morning for work on Monday. But for the rest of the week, I wanted to see if he’d remember to do it on his own. He hasn’t! I’ve unplugged it when I notice it, but admit that there was one day when it probably stayed unnecessarily plugged in for several hours. I’ve already tried reminding him verbally, so I’ll have to come up with another tactic.

What’s more, I’m not the only one at KIWI who’s tried the Unplug It! challenge. Our editorial director, Sarah, gave it a shot over the weekend, too, and succeed! Here’s what she had to say:

I have one light switch in my apartment that controls an outlet—making unplugging something from that outlet a two-step process. I often forget to do one of the steps: I’ll either unplug but leave the switch on, or turn the switch off but leave something plugged in. Today, I remembered both! It wasn’t that hard!

Cell phone chargers! My husband and I tend to leave our chargers plugged in to this outlet in the kitchen, because then it’s so super easy to plug in our phones when we get home. (There’s also a countertop light plugged in here, and I never think to unplug that one.) So the KIWI Challenge reminded me to take two seconds to unplug everything—and I have a feeling it’s not going to be that hard to plug the chargers back in tonight.

I’ll be back with a final wrap-up tomorrow!

Day 5: Friday

Hooray, I made it! I’m nearing the end of my challenge, but once I got the hang of remembering to unplug stuff after using it, the actual unplugging was pretty darn easy. (Fortunately, since I had to keep the food inside from going bad, I didn’t need to worry about trying to unplug my fridge. If I did, trying to get behind that thing to find the outlet would’ve been a huge pain.) I’m definitely going to keep this up! And maybe after a few more days (or weeks) of seeing me do it, my husband will get on board, too.

Reprinted from KIWI Magazine