Yesterday (March 31st 2012) millions of people around the world pretended to reduce their energy usage by turning off the lights and living in darkness for one hour. All in an effort to feel good about the wasteful consumer focused lifestyle they live the other 8759 hours of the year. Oh and also as a token effort to increase awareness of global warming.
The first Earth Hour was held in 2007 in Sydney, Australia. Since then, more than 120 countries have participated in this cathartic display for the purging of our eco-sins.
Now I know I run the risk of being jumped by the truly green few that read these pages so I will do this disclaimer: I went to university to study environmental issues and environmental policy. My honors thesis was on Energy use, and Sustainable Energy Sources. I am a card carrying Green Party member. I just find eco-tokenism to be an hinderance to real change.
The noble ideal behind Earth Hour is that by consciously living in a more more eco-friendly way – even if only for those 60 minutes – it may change the way we live the other 8759 hours.
If you did participate by turning off all those things you didn’t really need during that hour – how much could it hurt to only turn things on when you actually need them!
If you think Earth Hour actually saves energy or reduces carbon emissions, well I have bad news for you. The power grid is designed to meet peak projected demands. Electricity is constantly being created and fed into the grid in the expectation that it MAY be needed. Power generation plants do not turn on/off based on current consumption. In fact in Ontario, Canada the local power system had to dump electricity during an unexpected warm-spell in January – by paying others to take it!
If you want to reduce overall energy generation (and our total carbon footprint) then you need to reduce your energy use all the time. This changes the peak energy expectation – and then our energy generation stations will reduce their output based on averaging.
Earth Hour does start the conversation and is an opportunity for us all to look at our lifestyles and make real changes.
Below are some suggestions from WWF Canada on how to make a real change:
- Leave the car at home. Consider walking instead of driving. You’ll get more exercise and reduce your carbon footprint.
- Eat local. Your food will be fresher and will save harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
- Fly less. Enjoy a local vacation close to your home.
- Be energy efficient. Opt for home appliance with a high energy efficiency. It’s better for the planet and will help you save money.
- Use Green Power. Research if there are green energy providers in your area thatb provide your home with power generated from renewable energy sources.
- Get a Home Energy Audit. It will show you how your home uses energy and where you can make improvements. It could result in hundreds of dollars in energy savings each year.
- Hang Dry your clothes. Instead of using your energy-guzzling dryer, hang your clothes outside or in your laundry room.
- Unplug unused appliances and electronics. Electrical devices draw energy even when they’re not switched on.