Waste I See Every Day...
I know on this board I'm preaching to the choir, but maybe if we all could educate one other person about some of these things, we could control some of the waste that has made our economy so energy-inefficient:
-Drive-up windows. At banks, fast-food places, pharmacies and other places, I see six, seven, eight or more cars in drive-up lines, engines idling, a/c turned on. If there's no one waiting, maybe the drive-up is not a bad option, but if there is a big line, why not go in? Besides, extended idling of an engine, especially with the a/c on, heats up the engine and transmission and exposes them to additional wear.
-Supplies. It seems anytime people don't pay directly for something, such as for napkins, packets of ketchup, and other supplies at a fast-food restaurant, many take way too much and then toss it all in the trash. I see this virtually every time I go into a fast-food restaurant. Inch-high stacks of napkins, plastic trays full of unused packs of ketchup, mustard, hot sauce - all of this thrown out.
-Home lighting. Drive by houses at night, and you see most are still using incandescent bulbs for outdoor lighting. Why? Compact fluorescents have been available for years now, and they're cheap, long-lasting, and use a fourth the energy. I realize there are a few fixtures that can't accept them, but not that many, given all of the shapes and sizes of CFLs now available.
-Energy use at work. This is similar to the "supplies" category above: When people don't pay for it, many waste it. At work, many leave computers, lights, office equipment on all weekend, even when they're going away for an extended vacation. Many even disable the built-in energy saver feature that powers down the computer monitor after a while, using instead a "screen saver" that keeps the monitor powered up forever. Okay, you're not paying for it, but why burn a pile of coal to generate electricity for no purpose other than to power something no one is using?
-Out-of-town meetings. This is one the individual does not have much control over, but it needs to be addressed institutionally. I was recently involved in a training course where 40 people had to travel distances ranging from 20 to 110 miles (most were on the higher end of that range) to attend six day-long meetings. In only a few cases were people able to carpool, and no one spent the night because the meetings were not on consecutive days. So there were at least 30 vehicles, driving an average of 140 miles round-trip, multiplied by six days. That's 25,200 vehicle-miles -- two years' worth of driving for an average family car -- to drive to meetings. Yet all of that could have been saved because the whole course could have been put on a DVDs and mailed out, or conducted online.
-Buying new stuff that we don't need. Everything we buy has embedded energy in the form of the energy used to make it and transport it. But every day in America, people cart home armloads of junk that was either worthless to begin with or that they did not need because they already had other items that served the same purpose.
-Products that use lots of energy for some limited purpose, such as home water coolers, little refrigerators for the kids' rooms or bar, extra refrigerators in the garage, rec. room, basement so people don't have to take 20 steps the main one. Anything that must be kept warmed or cooled constantly is going to be a large energy consumer.
I hope others will have additional items to add to the list.