Green Your Decor Energy Gauntlet, Final Check-In

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Today’s the day! We’ve finally come to the end of our 6-week journey to make our homes more energy efficient by making one simple change: Unplugging items that we didn’t need to have plugged in all the time. Phantom power may sound fictional, but it’s a real source of unnecessary energy use and a simple problem to fix. So you have one last chance to participate and unplug! The 40th anniversary of Earth Day is tomorrow, and the Energy Gauntlet giveaway winner will be announced. In other words, if you wanted to participate, there’s no time to hesitate!

All of this got started because I was inspired by the Sylvania Earth Day Challenge, 40 for the Future. Most of you know this by now, but the goal of Sylvania’s challenge is to have enough people pledge to make small changes in their everyday living to save 40 million Kwh before Earth Day. Want to know where we are now? So far, people have pledged to make changes that will total 3,119,341,206 Kwh! Yes…that’s more than 3 billion kilowatt hours! We are often led to believe that small changes for the environment can’t make a difference, but look what we have managed to accomplish together in just 6 short weeks.

I’d love to see that number go even higher! If you haven’t yet, head over to the challenge website and take a look at the small changes you  can all make in your everyday life, both at home and at work. Then make your pledge! You’ve seen how all these pledges can add up, so why not add yours to the pot?

The Energy Gauntlet

It doesn’t seem like we’ve been doing this for 6 weeks, but this is the final day to assess you home. I challenged myself and all of you to do a room by room energy assessment of your home to see how many items are plugged in all the time and what are left turned on that  could easily be turned off or unplugged. This is it. If you haven’t joined the gauntlet, this is your last shot. It will take just a few minutes to go around your home and note what’s plugged in, but trust me — it will be an eye-opening exercise. There’s something about seeing just how much unnecessary energy you’re using that will make you want to fix it. And don’t forget! For participating, you’ll be entered to win a great prize package too, so scroll down to find out what you could win! Every reader who participates will get an entry to win for each week that you comment.

Since this is the last week, I’ll do a side-by-side comparison to show you where our household was in week 1 and where we are now:

Living Room

Week 1

  • Lamp (main light source)
  • Laptop charger
  • Cordless phone

NOTE: Our TV, Wii, DVD player are all plugged into a smart strip. What this means is that whenever we turn the TV off, that automatically cuts power to all the peripherals and shuts off the power strip. I strongly recommend using one of these for your TVs and computers, and I need to get some for my own computers.

Week 6

  • Lamp (main light source)

NOTE: Our TV, Wii, DVD player and cable box are all plugged into a smart strip. What this means is that whenever we turn the TV off, that automatically cuts power to all the peripherals and shuts off the power strip.

Dining Room

Week 1

  • Cordless vacuum charger
  • LED night light
Week 6

  • Nothing!

Laundry Room

Week 1

  • Washer & Dryer
Week 6

  • Washer & Dryer


Week 1

  • Stove
  • Fridge
  • ActiveIon water ionizer (a cool little gadget that allows you to clean and sanitize using JUST water. Really.)
  • iPod speakers & dock
Week 6

  • Stove
  • Fridge
  • Microwave (built-in)

Home Office/Studio

Week 1

  • 2 Desk lamps (rarely used)
  • Closet lamp (rarely used)
  • PC desktop tower & monitor
  • Mac desktop
  • External hard drive
  • Cordless phone
  • Printer
  • Paper shredder
  • Battery recharger
Week 6


NOTE: We FINALLY got that smart strip for the computer. The Mac desktop, which is the only one we are using right now, is the “control,” so when we turn it off, it cuts power to the surge protector and all peripherals 🙂

Daughter’s Bedroom

Week 1

  • TV
  • Playstation (used as a DVD player)
  • Lamp (used regularly)
  • Nightlight
Week 6

  • TV & cable box (we turn off the surge protector when she’s not watching it, and she almost never does)
  • Lamp (main light source)
  • LED nightlight (only comes on at night)

Master Bedroom

Week 1

  • TV
  • 2 lamps (we only ever use one)
  • Alarm clock
  • Charger for a voice activated TV remote (that we haven’t even programmed yet…tsk, tsk)
  • My cell phone charger
  • Husband’s cell phone charger
Week 6

  • Internet modem
  • 2 lamps (main light source)

NOTE: TV, DVD player and cable box are plugged into a smart strip.

I think we’ve come quite a long way! The first step was realizing how much stuff we had plugged in that we weren’t using (a voice activated TV remote that didn’t even work…really?). Next, we had to do something about the items we did use, and smart strips took care of those, for the most part. The last was careful management of those items for which we don’t have smart strips, like the  TV in mu daughter’s room. We plugged her surge protector into a wall outlet that is controlled by a light switch. So cutting phantom power to it is now as simple as turning off a light switch.

It is important to note that we were living in one apartment when we started and that we now live in a whole new place. At the last apartment, we had free cable that simply require a coaxial cable to be plugged into the wall, and free wireless internet with no modem. That all changed when we moved. At the last place, we also had overhead lighting in every room except the living room, so task lamps were less necessary there than they are now. Now, our lamps are the main light source in all the rooms we use the most. Only the kitchen, bathrooms and dining room have overhead lighting (and we put CFLs in all of those).

All in all, we learned to be a lot more proactive about our energy usage. We’re being good stewards of the Earth, but we’re also keeping our energy costs down, and that’s my favorite kind of “green.” 🙂 In your comments for this week, in addition to your list, I’d love to hear what, if anything, you learned from this challenge.


Ready to find out what you can win if you participate in the Green Your Decor Energy Gauntlet? An awesome green home prize package! The winner will receive:

  • ActiveIon Pro: This is an awesome little machine that allows you to clean and sanitize your home with nothing but cold tap water. I’m not kidding. I was skeptical of this description at first too, but I have been using my own ActiveIon Pro for months, and I love it! It’s a funny-looking piece of machinery, but I use it to clean my kitchen counters and stove, and even splatter from the walls. It’s great for hard surfaces in the bathroom as well. So how exactly does it work? It’s a tough process to explain, but basically, the ActiveIon ionizes the water, which allows you to clean and sanitize without any cleaning products. Bill Nye the Science guy can explain it better than I can. It doesn’t get much greener than cleaning with just water! You can read more about it here. Value: $299!
  • A smart strip: These power strips come with a control jack. You can plug your TV, computer, or any other major appliance into this port. Then when you turn off said appliance, it will cut power to the entire strip, simultaneously turning off anything else that’s plugged into it and reducing your use of ghost power. This is particularly useful when you have lots of peripherals like DVD players, video game consoles, printers, etc. Note: The image above is an example of the type of strip you will receive. The one you actually get may differ, but will serve exactly the same purpose. Value: $30
  • Energy efficient light bulbs: You’ll receive two 2-packs of Sylvania’s brand new SUPERSAVER Halogen bulbs and two 2-packs of their Living Spaces CFLs

If that doesn’t give you a boost in making your home greener, I don’t know what will! And I may still add more to the prize package, so be sure to enter every week! The more people who participate, the more likely I’ll be to make the giveaway even bigger and better, and I’m even considering some stylish green decor items! For each week that you check in, you will receive an entry, for a maximum of 5 entries (since noone entered during the first week). For your entries to count, you must:

  • Tell me what you did to participate in the Sylvania 40 for the Future Challenge (You only have to do this once. Subsequent entries can include just your list of the following:)
  • List all the items in your home that are plugged in all the time, and show an effort to reduce your energy usage each week. In other words, the point is that you have fewer items plugged in during the last week than you did during the first week.

The giveaway entry period ends tonight, April 21 at 11:59 p.m. The winner, who will be randomly selected from all entries, will be announced tomorrow on Earth Day, April 22. U.S. mailing addresses only!

(sponsored opportunity): Full disclosure: I am being compensated by Sylvania for my time in participating in and promoting the 40 for the Future Challenge. And anyone who knows me knows that I wouldn’t participate if I didn’t believe it was truly an opportunity to make a difference, however small.

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2 comments… add one
  • Avatar Marci April 21, 2010, 5:14 pm

    Tell me what you did to participate in the Sylvania 40 for the Future Challenge: I changed light bulbs today!, dried dishes on air dry with dishwasher, unplugged non used electric plugs, use warm and cold water in washing machine, use low flow showerhead.

    List all the items in your home that are plugged in all the time, and show an effort to reduce your energy usage each week: 4 TVs, 3 computers, 6 lamps, toaster, coffee pot, coffee grinder, pencil shaperner, Washer and Dryer, Fridge, Freezer, Baby Monitor, 1 pod charger, 2 phone chargers, pond heater, curling iron, and shaver.

    I have now unplugged the pencil sharpener, 2 tvs, and the pond heater.

    Week 4:
    I found a couple of more things that were plugged in that don’t need to be. Postage Scale, radio, weight scale, and one printer that isn’t used. I unplugged all those and will only plug them in on a need to use basis.

    I have used ONLY reusuable bags at the grocery store and even get a small refund everytime I do….Yipee!

    Week 5:
    OK this is our last and final week.
    I have certainly become more aware of what I’m being wasteful with. I had thought I was pretty good at being green but boy have you opened my eyes. This was a great project to really test my greenness.

    I have also included my daughters in this project. We talked about being green and what it means.

    One of our biggest challenges we just discovered two days ago. We had a water leak and didn\’t know it until we received our water bill….boo hoo. Anyway, we discovered where the leak is and are in the process of fixing it. Also I have switched from using my vacuum for dusing to using a swiffer duster.

    Thanks for giving us this challenge. It reminds us of how important the changes we make can benefit not only ourselves but our planet.

  • Avatar shel April 21, 2010, 6:44 pm

    I only recently found out about the Sylvania Challenge but I was surprised to see all the ways I can reduce our energy consumption and it made me more determined to do what I can to start saving more energy. My husband is my little \"outlet ninja\" and unplugs all non-essential appliances when we\’re not using them. We also started to charge our cell phones in our cars instead of plugging them in overnight at home.
    Right now the only items that are always plugged in are the refrigerator, chest freezer in the basement, the dryer, and the lamp in our living room. Every other appliance is usually unplugged when we\’re not using them or attached to a surge strip so that we can shut everything off on the strip at once (computer and our tv/dvd/home theater). I need another outlet strip for my son\’s room for his tv and xbox. Even he\’s into unplugging appliances after using them. Not only is it saving energy but it also makes it less likely that there will be a fire from an overworked outlet when we\’re not home.

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