Or why my family will participate in Earth Hour even though I think it is nothing more than symbolism.
So we are all going to turn off our lights for one hour at 8 pm on Saturday the 29th of March 2008. What a great idea. The time was obviously chosen to make sure that we could still have dinner and we would not miss the news, so we don't really have to change anything at all. We will all sit around with candles lit instead of electric lights and we feel so good that we are doing something for the environment. Then, an hour later, the whole nation will jump up, turn their kettles on, put the lights back on, turn the television on and cause a major jump in electricity use, causing electricity generators to go into overdrive to service the sudden increase. Hurray, we have saved the planet. See you next year.
I am not so sure this makes much environmental sense. I am also not entirely convinced that using candle light instead of energy efficient light bulbs reduces overall carbon emissions. We are "participating" for one reason only - we practice Earth Hour every hour, every day anyway. Here are some suggestions on how we can all reduce our energy consumption every hour, every day, not just during "Earth Hour":
- Drive less, combine trips and use your bicycle or your feet instead of your car where possible.
- Minimise all air travel, otherwise you will blow all your carbon savings in one hit.
- Sign up to 100 per cent accredited "green power" from renewable energy sources or produce your own renewable energy.
- Try not to use air conditioners and choose energy efficient heaters.
- Lower the heat setting on your heater and wear jumpers in winter.
- Make changes to your house so you do not need air conditioners in the first place. There are plenty of examples of low energy houses in Europe that need no heating or cooling all year round through proper siting, passive solar designs and good insulation.
- Turn lights off when not in use.
- Turn appliances off at powerpoint when not in use, particularly those using stand-by power.
- Replace all your incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient light bulbs (or, if you can, with LEDs, they are even better!)
- Next time you need to upgrade your fridge, go for a smaller model and buy one with the highest level of energy efficiency you can get.
- Use slow cookers and pressure cookers for cooking.
- Do not pre-heat your oven and, if possible, bake several dishes in one go. For most recipes, pre-heating your oven is not necessary, particularly in fan-forced ovens. Instead, leave the dish in the oven a bit longer after you have turned the heat off after the time in the recipe. This saves up to 20 per cent of energy used for baking.
Forget about the Earth Hour hype. Earth hour is every hour, every day.