You Owe Me a Nickel


When I was a kid living at home, my dad charged me a nickel every time I left a room without turning the light off. Usually this entailed me going to ask my mother for a nickel, because I never had any. She’d sigh and say, “You left a light on again, didn’t you?” Eventually, though, the habit stuck and now both my sister and I are known to regularly walk through our completely dark apartments, not wanting to turn a light on. My parents refused to turn the air conditioner on until June, no matter how hot we were, and in Georgia, May can be pretty warm. In the winter, they turned the heat down to about 64℉ at night. My basement bedroom was so cold that sometimes I could see my breath. Again, those habits stuck, and I’ve lived in central Florida for almost 10 years and haven’t turned my heater on yet. My local friends and co-workers usually start turning theirs on when the temperature outside drops below 60℉. These may not all be practical, but I’m sure there’s a happy medium where one turns on enough lights to avoid tripping over things but not so many that energy is wasted.


I recently moved to a much smaller apartment (from 1100 square feet to 450 square feet) in a much more walkable area. According to a calculator on Cool Climate Network’s website, my tiny apartment’s carbon footprint is 31.6% better than the average household in Winter Park with one person and similar income. I still have to drive to work, but I can walk or bike almost everywhere else I need to go.


Also, rather than drive out to big box retailers that are 10-15 miles away, I usually order things online. Shopping online has a smaller carbon footprint than shopping in brick and mortar stores (De Chant, 2013).


These are mostly small effects, and I know that I can’t save the planet single-handedly, but I learned from a young age to save energy and other resources from frugal parents who firmly believed in “waste not, want not”. I try to live up to that.

by Carol Wise, student from 425.601.FA15 Principles and Applications of Energy Technologies


CoolClimate Network

De Chant, T. (2013) What’s more energy efficient, shopping online or in stores? (blog post) Per Square Mile. Retrieved from


Leave A Comment