Monthly Archives: August 2010

Count Something #3: Pennies & Sense

I love saving money and I’m not afraid to admit it. I suppose that’s what I get after years spent with my mom searching for the best grocery deals. That’s also why I’m so impressed with the line of smart, innovative, power saving devices that Belkin just released. Now you can plug any electric device into the Belkin Conserve Insight to get a reading on the amount of power, carbon and how much it costs to run your device. If I had one of these I’d be able to answer random questions (sadly, I do ask these):

Does running my AC unit at 25°C cost less than 23°C?
What does it cost to keep numerous devices plugged in when they are not in use?
Do old devices really cost more to run?

If the answer to the last question is ‘yes’ and the value is significant, I’d like to use this as leverage to upgrade a few ancient electronics (wouldn’t you?!).

According to research, an entertainment system on standby power is costing you an estimated $76 per year*. If that’s only one room in the home, imagine what all your standby devices are actually costing you. My mission for the day, count how many things I could unplug based on usage patterns in my home:

1. Phone Charger (~once a week – I use a Blackberry, which tends to hold a charge for about a week)
2. Electric Toothbrushes (while we use them a couple times a day – they can last for a week without being charged)
3. Printer / Scanner (~once a week)
4. Electric Kettle (~ three times a month)
5. Toaster (~once a week)
6. TV (we actually got rid of this completely)
7. Hot water heater (we actually just flip a switch whenever we want hot water)

What would you unplug?

*Details: Based on an entertainment system configured with a DVD player, VCR, video game console, subwoofer, and amplifier left on, but not active, for 19 hours per day at $0.117 cost per kilowatt hour. (Sources: U.S. Energy Information Administration; U.S. Department of Energy; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and The Neilsen Company)

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Charting the Path to Happiness

I couldn’t resist posting the flowchart created by Typecut. It reminds me of the inspirational talk Steve Jobs gave to the 2005 graduating class at Stanford and I quote, “… for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Don’t ever be afraid to take risks and make calculated changes in your life.

Count Something #2: the Water Booth

I’d like to think I’m an environmentally friendly individual. I recycle, I favor green products & brands and I carry a reusable SIGG water bottle with me. Irrespective of this, I decided to count the number of water bottles I used in a week. I could blame the hot weather but on four occasions in the last week I ran out of water and had to purchase a bottle to keep hydrated. I assume I’m not the only one guilty of grabbing a bottle of water at a corporate lunch, a networking event, at the gym (when I’ve forgotten mine) or outside on a hot day.

The simple math:
On average if you consume one bottle of water a week, that one bottle will equate to 52 bottles a year and approximately 3500 in your lifetime (give or take).

The estimated global annual bottled water consumption is around 200 billion gallons and according to the International Bottled Water Association the US are the largest consumers of bottled water – consuming 8.665 billion gallons annually (2008). Based on the table below, the average person in the US consumes around two .5L bottles of water each week. This is up 32% over five years despite the mainstream acceptance of reusable water bottles.

The scary truth, it can take up to 1000 years for a plastic water bottle to decompose, which means a lot of unnecessary plastic is piling up in landfills and recycling sites. We have an opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint.

Image from SIGG

One Solution
What seems like a simple solution, we set up water booth fill stations in high traffic areas. These would be similar to water fountains – except that one side of the unit would sanitize the reusable bottle at high pressure to kill bacteria and the water source would be purified, filtered and locally sustainable. Given that the majority of bottled water is just filtered multiple times, your resulting cold refreshing water from a water booth would be similar to the brand name bottled water supplied on the market today. The water booth could even allow the consumer to select a vitamin or flavor supplement to include in the fill up. Given 90% of the cost of bottled water is associated with producing the bottle, lid and labeling, a water booth could offer water at a fraction of the price of bottled water. Like the obsolete 25 cent telephone booth – we could have a 25 cent water booth – with proceeds allocated to environmental causes.

I’d personally love to see the ‘green’ companies out there adopt a booth to maintain in their store, reception area or lunch room. Not to mention in malls, parks and high traffic areas. I hope Aquafina, Dasani, Evian, Fiji and other bottled water companies are listening.

Count Something…

Sorry for the lag in posting as I just got back from a long vacation. Aside from meeting wonderful people in Venezuela, Trinidad, Tobago and Grenada, I also learnt to sail under a captain who happened to spend his days working as an astrophysicist for NASA (everyone has a story). There is something magical about being at the helm of a boat, by yourself in the middle of the night – surrounded by nothing but ocean and letting the moonlight and stars guide you. I actually found myself counting the stars and smiling at the recollection of counting stars as a child.

As a numbers person, it’s easy to get caught up in sales & operational data that you fail to count things that have personal meaning – so I’ve set out to count things that matter. Last week I started counting the number of times I use the word ‘can’t’. I hit 6 and reflected on all the things I thought I couldn’t do. For example, I’ve always thought I couldn’t wink. To be honest, it never really bothered me. To me, winking was not a skill I could market myself with. The thing that bothered me was that there were six things I thought I couldn’t do. The idea that I was trapped by the the mere thought of not being able to do something – motivated me to learn. I actually went on the web and found a few ways to teach myself to wink, and it worked. I can now wink!


I’m not passionate about winking – but I’m passionate about learning. By simply counting the number of times I used the word ‘can’t’ I learnt twice as many things about myself.

What are you passionate about that you can count?