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Earth Day All Month: Energy Conservation

Editor’s Note: Each week during April we’re celebrating Earth Day by sharing practical tips on how you can make sustainable choices. We hope to share our own ideas, and some of yours, that help preserve our planet and some of your disposable income.

Daily life in modern society uses a lot of energy, but it doesn’t have to. By making some changes at home and at work, individuals can impact the environment. While the changes may seem small, over time, and as more people becoming green conscious, big changes can take place.

We’ve been working hard at Kendall-Jackson to reduce our energy consumption. Over the last three years we’ve reduced our electricity use by almost one third or 9,300,000 kWh. We started with a lot of small changes in our energy policies. Then in 2011 we bought renewable energy certificates equal to 130% of our annual usage—including buying it on behalf of our 1,000 employees’ home usage – a first for any company.

When you add up the energy savings and renewable energy totals we’re conserving an amount equal to almost 6,300 homes annual usage or green house gas emissions from over 3 million gallons of gasoline – that’s equal to 27,000 tons of CO2. We’re now #32 in the U.S.among all organizations buying at least 100% renewable energy and we’re one of just 19 organizations who received an EPA Green Power Leadership Award in 2011. It was a very special day when we stood on stage with the likes of Intel, Google and The City of San Francisco to receive our EPA award.

We’ve learned a lot about energy conservation in the last couple of years, and our hard work is paying off for the environment and our bottom line. We’re actually saving about $2.5 million per year, so we thought we’d share some tips how you can save energy and money from our friends at Practically Green. They’re a website that enables you to score your personal environmental performance and find ways to improve your green score in a social media environment.

Wash Cloths in Cold Water
Difficulty: Anyone Can Do It Now

Ninety percent of the energy used in doing laundry—including the energy used by the machines—is making water hot. To drastically reduce your laundry’s footprint, reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and save money, turn the dial to cold. Modern detergents are just as effective at washing clothes and removing stains in cold water as they are in warm or hot water.  Some detergents from natural products companies are even specifically formulated for use with cold water.

Bonus: Using cold water makes your clothing last longer. There might be a few instances when you want to use warm or hot water. If you or your kids are allergic to dust mites, washing in warm or hot will kill them. And if your whites are turning gray, an occasional warm water wash with hydrogen peroxide is in order. If you’ve been ill, or have oily stains, hot or warm water might be in order as well.

Install Low-Flow Showerheads
Difficulty: A Little D.I.Y.

You can save up to twenty eight gallons of water during one eight minute shower. It’s affordable and simple to make the change. Installing a low-flow shower head on existing plumbing involves unscrewing the old shower head and screwing in the new.  The EPA estimates that installing a low-flow shower head could save the average homeowner up to $47 on water, wastewater and heating costs. The more you install, the more you save.

Shower heads used to hog five gallons or more each minute. Then in 1992 the EPA required all shower heads to have a maximum flow of two and half gallons of water per minute. Today’s low-flow fixtures use less than two gallons per minute and are just as effective.

When shopping for a low-flow shower head, determine the flow rate or look for the EPA WaterSense label that indicates a flow rate of two gallons or less. One and a half gallons per minute is a good starting point. To save even more water, try taking shorter showers.

Energy Star programmable Thermostat
Difficulty: Might need a professional, but it’s worth it!

Installing a programmable thermostat is a simple and cost-effective way to reduce the energy usage in your home without sacrificing comfort. According to the EPA, when used properly, a programmable thermostat can save $180 per year in energy costs. They’re available online and at most home improvement stores. Before you shop, check with your local energy provider; they may offer rebates and have a list of approved models.

Programmable thermostats automatically regulate the temperature according to your preferences and operate less when you are asleep or away from home. Set your night-time/away from home setting as low as comfortable in the winter and as high as comfortable in the summer–the lower/higher you go, the greater the savings. This translates to lower energy bills and fewer emissions.

If you know what you’re doing, installing a programmable thermostat can take as little as ten minutes—plus wire cutters, electrical tape, and a screwdriver. If you discover that your existing thermostat is connected to an electrical box or you need help, hire a licensed electrician.

Programmable thermostats are not recommended for homes with heat pumps and are more complicated when used in homes with radiant, steam, or electric resistance heat.

Next week our Earth Day All Month post will reveal our new solar installation on our winery. Stay tuned for the exciting news and how you can get involved in renewable energy too!