County Advisory Committee member takes energy savings very seriously, especially in her own home
At DEP, we truly believe that our partners are key to making Montgomery County as green as it can be. This “Partners in Energy” series profiles a local leader, advocate, or trailblazer who is dedicated to improving energy efficiency and helping the County realize its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2050. Find out more about them in their own words.
This installment highlights Astrid Caldas, PhD and member of the Montgomery County Energy and Air Quality Advisory Committee (EAQAC)
My Green Montgomery: When did you first become interested in energy and climate change?
Astrid Caldas: I was always an energy saver – my dad would have low wattage bulbs around the house to use less electricity, and taught us to not leave lights on in empty rooms. He also taught me to turn off the shower while soaping and shampooing.
I carried that with me, and when climate change became a big(ger) deal some 15-20 years ago, I became even more strict – I go around the house turning off lights, have energy efficient appliances, programmable thermostat, and do all kinds of things to reduce energy usage.
I was part of the task force that created Sustainable Maryland back in 2009/2010. I got so interested in climate change that I changed my career, went back to school, and I am now a climate scientist working with climate impacts and adaptation.
MGM: What do you like most about living in Montgomery County?
Caldas: I love that our County is one of the most progressive in the country when it comes to sustainability and energy initiatives, and related education. We need the education component, because without it people cannot know the connections between climate change, energy, and sustainability. The Department of Environmental Protection does a great job of education and outreach. Oh, and all the green spaces and biking paths!
MGM: If you could be a renewable energy source, which would one would you be?
Caldas: I would definitely be solar! A solar panel lying on a beach somewhere…
MGM: What has been your proudest accomplishment when it comes to energy or water savings?
Caldas: My house uses less energy than most energy-efficient homes in my neighborhood! I did a full home energy audit years ago, and found my house is pretty good at energy savings. That only makes me want to save more.
MGM: What green projects are you working on now in your home or community?
Caldas:I am about to replace my HVAC system – it is old, and even though the technicians say it is very efficient, I know I can do better. Unfortunately my house is not a good fit for solar, or I would have done it.
MGM: What’s your favorite way to save energy in your home?
Caldas: Keeping the thermostat always a bit too chilly in winter and a bit too warm in the summer. Second choice is only doing cold water, full loads of laundry.
MGM: What’s one thing you’d like to share with your neighbors about energy efficiency?
Caldas: Don’t think what you do won’t make a difference – it will!
A study showed that Americans underestimate how much energy they could save by implementing energy efficiency measures at home – their estimates are on average 3 times lower than the actual savings they could achieve. Plus, if everyone in the US aimed to reduce their carbon footprint by 20%, we would avoid over 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere per year – that is huge!