The ability to harness energy in order to generate electricity is arguably one of the most important discoveries ever made by humankind. Without electricity, there would be no industrial age, and certainly no digital one. Year over year, our energy demands continue to increase with no sign of slowing down; if anything, we will need more and more electricity as the global population continues to grow and advance.
For most of us living in the time of 24 hour lighting and electronics, it’s hard for us to imagine a life without electricity. Yet, that is what the Earth Hour movement invites us to do. For a single hour, 8:30-9:30 pm this Saturday, March 23, millions of global citizens will switch off their lights in an act of solidarity. The movement, which began in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, challenges our collective human community to think differently about electricity, its use, and our impact. Since its founding, Earth Hour has grown to become the largest mass participation event in the world, with more than 7,000 cities taking part on March 23.
When was the last time you bought a candle to use to light your home, or prepared to retire with the sun as our ancestors used to do? By participating in Earth Hour, we all have the opportunity to remind ourselves of how precious electricity truly is. The next step is to commit to living more wisely by reducing your electricity consumption. For while Earth Hour is a symbolic action, the real change rests with each of us—and the companies we work for—taking steps to reduce our consumption on a regular basis, not just for an hour.
4 Easy Ways to Save Energy
1. Turn off the lights whenever not in use. Replace incandescent bulbs with lower energy CFLs or LED bulbs (the expense of which is recouped over the life of the bulb).
- Take it a step further: ask your place of business or stores that you frequent to reduce their light consumption.
2. Shut off or unplug electronics when not in use, including computers, appliances, televisions, cell phone chargers, etc.
- Take it a step further: plug appliances into a smart power strip and shut off the strip nightly or when not in use. Upgrade appliances to Energy Star.
3. Use natural light, cooling, and heating whenever possible.
- Take it a step further: get an energy audit, often offered at a free or inexpensive rate from your local utility or municipality. Consider replacing your HVAC system with more modern furnace, A/C, and programmable thermostat; replace old windows to reduce energy losses; install solar panels or geothermal heat.
4. Purchase renewable energy credits (RECs) to offset the electricity you can’t reduce.
- Take it a step further: encourage your business to do the same—let them know that your company’s carbon footprint matters to you!
I’m fond of the parable of the starfish. If you don’t know the story, it goes something like this:
One day, an old man was walking along the beach. It was low tide and the sand was littered with thousands of stranded starfish. The man knew that the starfish would die if left on the beach but he reasoned that he could not possibly help all the starfish, so he chose to help none and continued walking.
He soon came upon a child on the beach who was throwing starfish after starfish back into the sea. The old man stopped and said to the child, “Why waste your time? There are so many starfish that you can’t possibly save them all, so what does it matter?” Without hesitation, the child picked up another starfish and tossed it into the water, replying to the old man, “It matters to this one.”
In the face of global climate change, we can feel like the old man, like our actions are useless. But, instead, we should be as the child, acknowledging that even the smallest actions—like turning off our lights for an hour this Saturday—make a difference. If all of us were to pick up the starfish instead of turning aside, indifferent, who knows how many of them could be saved.