How to Live Sustainably


Reducing our energy use not only reduces our costs, it also leads to reduced air pollution and carbon emissions. While about half of our energy consumption in the home is devoted to heating and cooling, we also consume energy during our many day-to-day activities without realizing it. For example, when you Google a search on the web, the amount of energy it requires to complete 100 searches is the equivalent of keeping on an incandescent light bulb for 28 minutes.

The energy-saving tips below are relatively easy to accomplish and are low cost. For additional inspiration check out these money saving conservation tips from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.


Switch To LEDs

The Colgate Clock in Jersey City has switched to LED’s. Can you guess how many light bulbs are in the clock?It’s Time to Switch to LED’s! LED (Light Emitting Diode) lightbulbs are between 70-90% more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs. Each LED bulb used for an average of 3 hours a day can save roughly $8 in energy costs per year or up to $1,000 over a ten-year period. Your exact savings depends on how many hours you use the lightbulb each day, and how much a Kwh costs for the electricity supplier you choose.

How do LED’s Work? In LED lightbulbs, electrical current passes through a microchip, which lights up the tiny LED’s. The energy is released in the form of photons, a process called electroluminescence. This transfer of electrical energy to light is 8 times more efficient than in a traditional, incandescent bulb. An incandescent bulb only uses 10% of the energy it consumes to create light, and about 90% of the energy to heat up the filament inside the bulb. LED’s last between 30,000 and 50,000 hours, or until the lumens (light output) falls below 70%. An incandescent bulb by comparison only lasts on average about 1,000 hours.

3 types of light bulbs
Incandescent, CFL, and LED Lightbulbs
Incandescent, CFL, and LED Lightbulbs
What is the Difference Between CFL and LED Lightbulbs? Compact Florescent Lightbulbs (CFL’s) use essentially the same technology commonly found in fluorescent ceiling lights in schools or commercial buildings. CFL’s are more efficient than incandescent bulbs, but not as efficient as LED lightbulbs. LED bulbs do not contain any mercury, so unlike compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), they do not require separate disposal practices.

WATT to Look For: LED lighting technology has improved dramatically, allowing you to purchase bulbs in various shapes for a variety of different fixtures. There are bulbs that have a bright or warm color, and that can be dimmed.

  • Kilowatt Hour — A KWh (killowatt hour) is the amount of energy used to power a lightbulb. For LED lighting, a kilowatt hour does not indicate how bright the light will be.
  • Kelvins — We measure the color variation of a lightbulb, also known as the color temperature, in Kelvins. The lower the K number, the warmer (yellower) the light. For a “warm” lightbulb, look for 2700–3000 K, for a “cool” lightbulb, look for 3600–5500 K.
  • Lumens — The brightness of lightbulbs, or the total light output, is measured in lumens; the higher the lumens, the brighter the bulb. Energy efficiency of light sources is typically measured in lumens per watt (lm/W), meaning the amount of light produced for each watt of electricity consumed.

SMART LED’s are LED’s that can be turned on and off, dimmed or have a capability of color change through APPS or Wifi. These are a newer, more expensive bulb technology.

For more information, visit the Energy Star Lighting Guide

Unplug Your Appliances
The average American home has 20-40 appliances, electronics and other products that are constantly drawing electrical power — even when you are not using them. This “phantom” or “vampire” load can account for up to 5-15% of your monthly electricity bill. Unplugging your appliances and electronics when you are not using them will save money and electricity.

UnplugTips for Unplugging:

1. Since unplugging electronics one by one can be a hassle because of their location under desks or behind couches, plug them into a power strip and turn them off when not using them. Advanced power strips (or APS) have built-in features that further reduce the energy consumed by many consumer electronics.

2. Buy an energy monitor device like a killawatt meter to find out how much electricity each household device is costing you, whether on or off, in order cut down your energy usage.

3. Use products that are energy efficient and have lower standby power.

4. Appliances that use a remote need to always be “on alert” in order to receive a remote-control signal, and can consume nearly as much electricity off as when you are using them if left plugged in.

5. Electronics and appliances with digital displays also continuously draw power — so turn off your coffee maker after you finish your first few cups and place the rest in a thermos.

Curious about these phantom loads? Check out this handy Phantom Load Calculator for typical phantom loads for electronics. The efficiency of major appliances greatly varies, as does the phantom load.
Use A Programmable Thermostat
Programmable thermostats are the perfect solution for those of us who want to save energy, but may forget to adjust the thermostat every time we leave for the day or go to bed at night. You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting. Even small adjustments can make a big difference: save 1% to 3% on your heating costs for every degree you dial down.

thermostatsTraditional programmable thermostats replace the thermostat on the wall of your home, and have settings to automatically raise and lower the temperatures. These cost typically $25-50 dollars and have a quick payback period when properly installed and programmed. These are not recommended for heat pumps or electric base board heating systems, as those require a different type of thermostat.

Tip: If you have a traditional programmable thermostat, have an “at home” temperature and an “away from home temperature,” and keep those consistent for at least 7-8 hours, rather than adjusting continuously throughout the day.

Smart Thermostats or Wifi Enabled thermostats allow you to also automatically raise and lower temperatures in the home- but you can adjust the settings from your phone or laptop. Some models can be set to recognize your habits, and will anticipate the patterns of temperature preferences and adjust them for you. Other types have the addition of remote temperature sensors in individual rooms to increase their effectiveness. Smart thermostats are more expensive than traditional programmable thermostats.
Wash With Cold Water
In Hot Water with Your Electric Bill? Water heating is the second largest energy expense in your home after heating and cooling. It typically accounts for approximately 18% of your utility bill. Investing in more efficient water heaters, dishwashers and washing machines can result in significant savings.

Washing your Clothes in Cold Water can reduce your hot water usage significantly, while still getting your clothes clean. Ninety percent of energy used to wash clothes comes from heating the water used for your laundry. So washing your clothes in cold water can save you money: save between $50-150 a year, depending on your washing machine. Each household that makes the switch to cold-water washing avoids approximately 1,600 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year — a significant reduction without any financial investment.

According to Consumer Reports, you can get clothes cleaner by using cold water instead.

Washers have changed. Even though newer more efficient washing machines use less water, they have been designed to clean clothes better in cooler temperatures to meet the EPA’s new energy guidelines for efficiency.

Detergent has changed. The composition of laundry detergents has changed to adapt to the new washing machines, and have new enzymes that work to remove dirt and stains in cold water and are actually less effective at higher temperatures.

Clothes last longer. Washing with cold water extends the life of the fabric of your clothes and their color. Washing with hot water can shrink, damage, and fade many of your clothes.

Cold water washTips for going green with your laundry:

1. Wash in cold water, unless there is an illness, parasite, or pest that needs to be controlled

2. Wash only full loads — you can save up to 3,400 gallons of water each year, depending on the type of washer

3. Do not over-wash your clothes — use the shortest setting needed

4. Look for detergent in reduced or recycled packaging

5. Use high speed mode when washing so that there is less moisture when drying

6. To reduce energy from drying, remove lint every time you use your machine to open up air flow and increase dryer performance.

7. Switch loads while your dryer is warm to use the remaining heat in your next load

8. Separate light and heavy garments for the most efficient drying times

9. Skip the dryer and air dry your clothes: and pocket about $75-100 dollars a year
Shower Better
Money Still Going Down the Drain? You can also shower better in order to save money on water and water heating costs:

shower better inforgraphicTake Shorter Showers
Take 5! The average person can save 1500 gallons of water a year just by taking shorter showers. A five-minute shower creates 2.25 lbs of CO2 and a ten-minute shower 4.5 lbs of CO2. Taking five minute showers for a whole year would save as much CO2 as is sequestered annually by half an acre of U.S. forest.

Replace Your Showerhead (and Place an Aerator in Your Faucet)
Replacing your showerhead with a more efficient Water Sense model, which has been certified to use less water, and installing an aerator on your faucet will decrease your water and energy use and save you money. According to the EPA, running a hot water faucet for 5 minutes uses about the same amount of energy as burning a 60-watt bulb for 14 to 22 hours.

Renewable Energy
Renewable energy is an essential component of a transition to a more resilient and sustainable Jersey City. Clean, non-polluting renewable energy sources like solar, off-shore wind, and geothermal can replace the burning of fossil fuels, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Jersey City has a commitment toward the transition to renewable energy, as part of the measurable actions to address global climate change. Mayor Steven M. Fulop signed a letter of commitment officially joining the City of Jersey City to the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy.

To learn more about how to shop for energy, the Board of Public Utilities has created an entire website with helpful information, explanations and tips: Please visit NJ Powerswitch
Go Solar
New Jersey is the nation’s seventh-largest solar state, with over 556,472 homes powered by solar (according to the Solar Energy Industries Association [SEIA], 2020).

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of gasoline, natural gas, and the cost of a kilowatt hour have all increased in New Jersey from May 2017 to May 2018. But the price of solar in New Jersey has decreased by over 50% in the last 5 years. Companies like Energy Sage offer information about solar and compare installer quotes for you.

New Jersey has a renewable portfolio standard, or RPS, which requires utilities to offer a certain percentage of their electricity generated by renewable resources rather than fossil fuels.

Solar prices have decreased by 38% over the last 5 years. Despite this, over three quarters of New Jersey residents have not yet been able to access solar but this may begin to change. New legislation has laid the groundwork for a statewide community solar program, to create a next generation of solar incentives, and a Community Solar Energy Pilot Program. This state legislation is particularly important for Jersey City, since 70.5% of the population is made up of renters, rather than single family homeowners. The new legislation gives special consideration to low and middle income residents, increasing access to solar for more of our residents.
Sustainable Eating
Reducing meat consumption is among the most significant individual choices we can make for reducing our GHG emissions and improving food security for others worldwide. While industrial agricultural activities of all types use resources and produce greenhouse gases, a recent World Resources Institute report found that animal-based foods are much more resource-intensive and environmentally impactful to produce than plant-based foods. For example, beef production requires 20 times more land and emits 20 times more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of edible protein than common plant-based protein sources such as beans, peas and lentils.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the livestock industry generates 14.5% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The United Nation’s report, Plates, Pyramids, Planet (in collaboration with the Food Climate Research Network at the University of Oxford) concludes that a plant-based diet has advantages for health and the environment, and encourages nations to adopt not only nutrition guidelines, but sustainability guidelines as well.

Over the last decade, some Americans were doing their part to help out: our nation’s beef consumption has decreased by 19 percent, according to a recent report by NRDC. Many reduced their red meat consumption for health reasons: according to a study by BMJ reported in the NYTimes, a diet high in red meat consumption increased the rate of dying from cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, infections, kidney disease and liver disease.

To have a positive impact on the environment, eating less meat does not require eliminating all meat from your diet, but simply eating it less frequently and/or in less amounts. Rather than a large separated portion, meat can be used in less amounts to complement the flavors of a dish. Initiatives like Greenpeace’s Less is More campaign encourage you to eat less meat and gain a better understanding of where your food comes from.

Eat locally

farmer's marketIn the United States, according to the EPA, conventionally-produced foods travel roughly 1,500 miles from farm to plate and are responsible for 5 to 17 times more CO2 than local and regionally-produced food. When you eat local foods, you not only support the local economy but you also eat more sustainably because local foods are in season, produced in the region with less resources, and travel less distance to your plate. Less packaging and storage is required if food does not need to be transported over long distances, so locally grown food has a lower carbon footprint.

Tips for eating locally and seasonally

Jersey City supports nine farmers markets that offer fresh vegetables, fruits, locally raised meat and poultry, eggs, dairy, flowers, and regional honey. Select vendors and farmers accept SNAP/EBT vouchers; Women, Infants & Children (WIC) vouchers; and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) vouchers.

We are called the Garden State for a reason: we have many New Jersey Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables to choose from.

No backyard but want to grow more of your own local food? Get involved in local Jersey City community gardens.
Build Sustainably

Green Buildings

BuildingPublic Safety Communications Center has been constructed to achieve a LEED Silver certification.

Green building initiatives are increasing in cities and states across America, so Jersey City’s policies are consistent with these trends.

Jersey City PD West District building adheres to green standards

The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) launched its Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment in 2018 calling on businesses and organizations to eliminate operational carbon emissions from their building portfolios by 2030 in order to meet the climate goals of the Paris Agreement.

Types of Green Building and Certification SystemsJersey City PD West District building adheres to green standards

Zero Energy Buildings combine energy efficiency and renewable energy generation to consume only as much energy as can be produced onsite through renewable resources over a specified time period. NJ has a Zero Energy Ready Homes program, and even a manufactured net zero home is being measured for energy performance in the Garden State.

Why invest in an ultra-low energy building design? Although the expected 10% construction price premium for these buildings increases the price a few hundred dollars per year over the life of a mortgage, it is more than made up for by a 90% reduction in heating energy that can reduce your costs a thousand dollars per year or more.

A Living Building is a green building certification program and sustainable design framework for a regenerative built environment. Living Buildings produce more energy than they use and collect and treat all water on site. There is an International Living Building Challenge in which building professionals across the world compete to get their sustainable buildings certified under these strict standards, which are less common than LEED.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most common green building certification system in the United States. LEED considers five key categories of environmental performance: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality. There are LEED certifications for commercial buildings, schools, and single-family homes.

LEED offers four levels of certification that are based on how many points are awarded for the building’s performance: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has 55 buildings listed in Jersey City that have either received or are being considered for LEED Certification.

The New Jersey Chapter of the USGBC offers more information on training and certification for residents and building professionals. There is also a separate certification for LEED Interior Design and Construction.

Building and design professionals can become LEED accredited through certification training programs found on the New Jersey USGBC website.
The SURE House is a Passive House home from the Solar Decathlon on display at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City
Energy Audits: An energy audit is a service that identifies where you are wasting energy, and helps to prioritize projects to improve your home performance.

When you schedule an energy audit, a home inspection will include testing of the building envelope, and what opportunities there are to improve efficiency. This can include weatherization, improving the efficiency of appliances, windows, and/or HVAC systems. Some recommendations may cost little, such as an aerator for your faucet, or can include more significant investments such as new windows. New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program offers Energy Efficiency Rebates that help reduce costs for improving efficiency around the home.

Energy Conservation & Efficiency
Energy efficiency is using a technology that requires less energy to perform the same function. So switching to LED light bulbs is a more energy efficient way to light a room.

Where does my moneyEnergy conservation is any behavior that results in the use of less energy. Switching the lights off when you leave the room is a way we can conserve energy. Conservation efforts require us to change our habits, without spending any money, yet the return on the investment of effort can be significant.

Before making any investments, you can conduct a do-it yourself energy audit and also calculate your return on investment for energy efficiency projects.

Weatherization: refers to making energy efficiency improvements throughout your home, which may include air sealing, or filling in cracks or gaps that let air escape, and/or adding insulation. In Jersey City, PACO offers free weatherization programs for qualified residents to help them save money on their utility bills.

Need assistance with landlords for improvements? Check the Jersey City Office of Tenant/Landlord Relations page for more information.