Updated: Mar 9

suf·fi·cient| səˈfiSHənt | adjective – enough; adequate for the purpose

Image by Sandy Budde

One of my best friends is an energy efficiency expert. His name is Don and he has been helping people tighten up their homes and install low-energy appliances for years, saving folks a lot of money and saving fossil fuel use. But Don will be the first one to tell you that the greenest energy—the least polluting—the most capable of truly reducing greenhouse gas emissions—is the energy you never use. Energy efficiency is great, should be considered in every new construction, every new electric vehicle, every new appliance, but at the end of the day, energy efficiency will not save us or the planet.

According to the website Treehugger: Sustainability for All, “Even though appliances are made [more energy efficient] and houses built to higher [efficiency] standards, we are using more energy than ever as the population grows, along with our houses and our cars. Even as we get more efficient, we are still using more energy in total.” Bummer.

What we need in this moment of both opportunity and crisis is something closer to a “less is more” concept: we need to rethink what is “sufficient” for our needs and then change our behaviors, as best we can, to reflect that.

Kris de Decker, creator and author of the blog Low-Tech Magazine explains that “to focus on energy efficiency is to make present ways of life non-negotiable. However, transforming present ways of life is key to mitigating climate change and decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels.”

As the authors of Treehugger explain, “De Decker concludes that we have to change the way we think in the larger historical context. For instance, jet planes have been getting more and more efficient all the time, to the point where they now move a passenger with the same amount of fuel as prop planes did fifty years ago. A hundred years ago people used even less fuel to fly, because they didn’t do it. Similarly, electric tumble dryers are getting more efficient all the time but cannot touch the energy efficiency of clotheslines.”

So during these days of reflection on kindness toward the planet and being sufficiently satisfied with what we have, we will do well to consider not only being more energy efficient but coming to honest terms with making less more.

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