Out of nowhere, my laptop dies. My stomach drops. This device holds my entire life. My pictures, my documents, my music, everything. I am flustered. I look around my room within the hostel at Cloughjordan for someone to help, but no one is around.
“It can’t be dead,” I mutter to myself, anxiously pressing the power button again and again trying to turn it back on. “It’s charging,” I tell myself. Or is it? I check the outlet and realize that, to my dismay, I did not turn the outlet switch “on.” Thus, the entire time I thought I was charging my laptop it was instead slowly dying. I roll my eyes at the nuisance of the on/off outlet switches.
However, later on, I realize the importance of switching the outlets off when not in use. While I had previously always been under the impression that when something wasn’t plugged in that electricity wasn’t being used. That is not the case. Though less electricity is being used when outlets are not in use, if the outlet is not “off” then electricity is still being wasted, this is called phantom energy. Unfortunately, in the U.S., outlets do not give the user the option to switch “off” and thus energy is constantly being used when it is not needed. The energy that is being used is around one to five watts. Though this seems small, it adds up.
“We do not have five earths, we only have one!” Peader, chairman of the Ecovillage, waves a finger at us angrily. The lack of on/off switches on many outlets in the U.S. is just one small example of how our country is operating as if the planet earth is dispensable. From now on I will always be sure to switch the outlets off when not in use, and unplug every device that is not currently being used or charged. Though the energy humans are burning through will not be reversed that easily, every small step counts.