What can I do about our electronic gadgets constantly being charged or on standby?
The smartphone has been called the fifth limb – half of the UK’s adult population has one, and 24% of us have tablets. Factor in the gadgets we house, such as electric toothbrushes and various entertainment devices, and it all adds up to a lot of juice.
The 2007 report The Ampere Strikes Back suggested the energy burden of all our gadgets, especially huge plasma TVs, would undo the benefits of all other residential energy saving. Thanks to EU legislation and some manufacturers’ work on energy efficiency, particularly of set-top boxes, emissions from these devices have not yet led to the apocalypse.
But studies monitoring households day and night detected background electricity consumption of 20-30 watts between 1am and 7am, when everyone was apparently asleep. Opinion is divided as to the significance of such so-called vampire appliances – gadgets in standby mode that sip electricity from the grid. David MacKay, author of Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air, reminds us not to sweat the small stuff and says that a mobile-phone charger plugged in all day uses as much energy as driving a car for one second. However, a 2012 Energy Saving Trust study puts the cost of phantom power use at £50 to £86 a year per home. My thinking is: if it’s not in use, unplug it.
You should charge your smartphone, laptops and tablets at night, even if this means they remain plugged in when fully charged (who is eco martyr enough to unplug a charging appliance during the night?) This moves a little consumption away from peak times, when the grid becomes even more wasteful and shifts to the most intensive fossil-fuel electricity to supply demand. You should also worry more about your car than your house – inefficiency really kicks in when you charge on the move. Transforming petrol to electrical energy is massively inefficient – plugging a phone into a car adapter gives you shy of 10% of the energy of the source fuel.
This isn’t something we dwell on too much. While the energy debate is predicated on using less or producing more energy (from renewables), we rarely talk about how inefficient our conversion is. What we really need is a whole philosophical shift. Have a look at sust-it.net – there they reckon that “energy-efficient electricals” could save you £592 per year and the planet 2,178kg of CO2equivalent. A step in the right direction.
Green crush: Rubies in the Rubble
When there was a glut of produce on the Scottish farm where Jenny Dawson grew up, they made chutneys and jams. So in 2010 she saw a future for the “outgrades” and misshapen fruit and veg at London’s New Spitalfields Market. She createdRubies in the Rubble, now a thriving social enterprise employing vulnerable and marginalised women from London’s East End and selling premium chutneys and jams from market rejects. Her work has just won her the new generation award at the Veuvue Cliquot Business Woman Awards. Each year 12,000 to 13,000 tonnes of fruit and vegetables are binned at New Spitalfields Market alone, with an approximate 60% being fit for purpose. Dawson plans to go into pickling next. “To Preserve, To Serve and To Save’”– that’s the motto.