Do this!:

One difficulty with most so-called economic behaviour in the world is that it pays attention only to the first price, and rarely to the second. If it were truly economic behaviour, it would consider all prices, including those that are externalized – and for those, a mitigation fee would be paid.

Ontario has a Tire Stewardship Program;
this is one of two coasters I have of recycled rubber.

That’s the Electronic Waste fee that we pay in Quebec when we buy electronics (such as an iPad), and also the environmental tax we pay when we buy tires – at $3 per tire. This means when you want to scrap your tires, you bring them to any garage that does tire service and get rid of them, no questions asked. They go to a recycling plant, as opposed to get stockpiled and then, accidentally, set ablaze like the tire fire(s) we had in the early 1990’s. In the summer of last year, Quebec announced that the last stockpiled tires from its various dumps have now all been recycled.

When you buy a home, it’s good to take into consideration all the costs. First price after the cost of the dwelling: mortgage servicing and condo fees; second: annual tax; third and fourth: annual insurance and energy bills; fifth: initial repairs/renovations; sixth: excise/land transfer/”bienvenue” tax and other closing/selling costs. When I was shopping for a home, I created a spreadsheet to track these along with square footage and other costs and features of those I was considering. It helped.

When it comes to energy – gasoline, electricity, other fuel – Canadians pay too little, so that we are unquestioning about how we use it, except to exclaim when the rates are raised or if there’s a sudden spike in use they weren’t expecting. Nonetheless, those winter heating bills are something to contend with here. At Home Depot, I ran into someone who was shopping for Roxul, rock wool, to insulate his 1950’s home, just like I am planning to do. He told me about the comfort achieved in his kids’ bedrooms by upgrading the insulation, and the ongoing process of things to do. There’s a lot of information out there, particularly on YouTube, and a few programs to help people pay for them. It’s worth mentioning again: the Rénoclimat program allows you to measure your home efficiency and get a rebate on the work you carry out; and low-income folks can use the Econologis program to improve their own dwelling’s energy efficiency.

It really is effective to put on a housecoat and slippers, keep your thermostats at 18º, seal off drafts, run cold water in the laundry (or very tepid; turn that hot water on low, especially if you do a lot), and try to remember to switch off the power bar and unplug other devices when not being used, as their draw adds up. They run what is called a phantom or ghost load, particularly as many have Standby power as a feature – I mentioned it last post regarding putting my iMac to sleep. Interesting to note: phantom power and ghost load have other very specific meanings, one for audio equipment, and one for shotguns.

You can also try, like me and many good country folks, closing your bedroom doors to prevent them from being heated by the rest of the house. People usually sleep well in the cold. (Psst. It’s okay to use incandescent bulbs in winter, at least if they’re at person-height. They cast off waste heat. They make you feel good when you’re reading or working next to them. Go ahead.)

The annual electricity consumption of my house has been reduced by at least 20% since the first two years of living here, and considerably more compared to the previous owner and also at least one of my tenants from when I’ve gone away. In fact – I didn’t notice this until now – but in the summer, I joined the 10 kWh club. My daily consumption between May 29th and September 25th, 2013 was 6 kWh per day. That is awesome! Of course, now that the heat is back on, it’s over 25 kwh per day. I would like to reduce that – as part of my eco-home renovations, I would like to build a masonry heater to replace my drafty corner fireplace that was misfortunately (stupidly, considering the way and why they did it) outlawed.

So, without further explanation, here is a graph of my electricity consumption since I started the above measures. It doesn’t graph against the weather, but all use is temperature-dependent, basically.

Date of bill x total kWh of bill. BTW, that spike in winter #2 was because I had a really obnoxious roommate who kept her room like a sauna, bitched about the cold, and then said “you said heat was included!” when I presented her with the bill. 

Updated to add: Why is this so important? Because HydroQuebec needs to export more electricity to alleviate environmentally-damaging methods, without converting to similar methods themselves, as they are planning to do (and I’m not talking about windmills, though the monopoly on how we do grids here is a whole other kettle of fish, and makes wind the “enemy” to a lot of people.)