Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 18: Why We Don't participate in Earth Hour! (no apologies here!)

Yes I do want to I ruffle a few feathers.  Oh yes, I might say some things that will offend a few "self rightest" out there.  But at the end of the day, if some of you learn something, then my post is successful.  With the help of my wonderful husband I present to you.....

One hour that you could spend actually changing the world, one choice at a time! 

How many of you lit candles, did you ever consider the energy consumed in the making of those tea lights or candles?

 The problem with gimmick events like Earth Hour is that many people will participate publicly to appease their conscience while at the same time judging those who don't participate. What they won't consider when they go back to their regular lives (and regular energy consumption) is that some people have made changes in the way they live their lives that do so much more than one hour could do.

Consider that in our house for example, we have a device that shows us real time energy consumption so we can see how much power we are using at any one time and turn off extra lights, the TV, etc. to reduce the numbers. The kids see the number and want it to be a "little" number to save electricity and the planet. If they sit down at breakfast and the number is 0.5 kW (~500W), they remember that the TV is on and they go turn it off. They are learning young to save electricity because it is the right thing to do. We also have a device which uploads this information online (see screenshots) that lets us track exactly when we use electricity so that we can shift usage to lower usage times (province wide - to reduce the impact of our energy use on the environment as well as costs to the province for power. Its not a perfect system, unfortunately our biggest winter power user, the dryer, doesn't have a timer function, so it has to run while we are awake and sometimes not at ideal times.

Getting back to Earth Hour, based on an average evening, we use anywhere from 100 - 300 W over baseload of about 170W (the fridge, deep freezer, furnace, always "on" computer equipment like modem, routers, switches and server) during the 8:30 - 9:30 time period.  If we turned everything off during that time period, we would have saved at most 300 Wh of electricity, 3 cents worth at flat rate (or less than 2 cents on weekend low peak time of use rates).  The energy we save hanging one load of laundry to dry outside is approximately 3000 Wh or 10x one Earth Hour. Now I know for some people they would have saved more during Earth Hour because they normally use a lot more, but since we've managed to be very efficient as it is, making a couple of candles to light up our house during Earth Hour would likely take away a good chunk of our energy savings for the hour. How many Earth "Hourites" bother setting up clotheslines? I know in the area around my house, there is one "hidden" clothesline, other than ours which spans the whole backyard, in the 12 or so backyards I can see from my own. I know that the dryer is the biggest energy waster in my house and have taken steps to mitigate the impact of this device, that alone is worth a heck of a lot more than turning off the lights for an hour.

If you did participate in Earth Hour, make sure you made lasting changes. Otherwise it is just as I said, a way to appease consciences, because what good is awareness if you don't make any changes from what you learned.


  1. An interesting point of view, I didn't participate myself in earth hour but will keep this in mind when I buy my own house.
    And besides, the power is being generated during earth hour whether it was used or not so it ends up as wasted energy.

  2. 3 cents x 2.0 billion people that have electricity in the world = 60 million bucks

    You're already an energy efficient family. Maybe your family started after one of the Earth Days. Maybe instead of bashing Earth Day, a family like you can promote good energy use to those who aren't yet aware or don't even care.

    "In a world in which demographic growth and progress in communications have put us in very close contact with our neighbors, the very survival of humanity depends on our working together. That is why more than ever, we must look upon humanity as one entity. The problems that we face go beyond individuals and nations. We can only resolve them through an effort of shared responsibility." ~ Dalai Lama

  3. Michelle hit the nail on the head, and Nat, I do react the same way as you do on topics in which I am ahead of the curve. I really shouldn't take that approach and I think you'll find your attempts at educating the world to be more effective. Now it's time for me to practice what I preach. :D

    On another note, I AM SO JEALOUS! You guys have Google Powermeter available in your area and we don't. Well, maybe I should purchase a device that does work with it.

  4. Thank you for responding. Mark wrote the bulk of this post but it is what I also think. I know that "preaching" is not the way to go, and so 9/10 we just do our own thing and never say anything.

    This time, I let the 'rant out of the bag' so to speak. I just wanted the effect to be eye opening! Sort of like the sick lung pictures on the cigarette packs. And if you re-read we aren't "bashing Earth Day" we are just letting everyone see the elephant in the room. People do this type of stuff to appease their conscious and never truly understand what the actual point of the exercise was in the first place because they go back to their old habits!

    All you have to do is walk into a public library and information is thrown at you about energy conservation, people DO know what needs to be done to conserve energy but making those changes is hard. And most of us are lazy! We don't like to change! (remember: most not all) Just like the "you are what you eat" phrase. Everyone knows it but people choose to ignore it!

  5. We didn't really bother with Earth Hour this year because we were at my parents'. Usually I do because sitting in the dark is sooo romantic.

  6. Awesome Natalie.

    Coming from someone who spent 5 years living out of a backpack mainly trying to find people who had a conscience to live their lives rather then be told how to, might give this message a bit more Oummph.

    I especially noted and enjoyed that you saved personal energy by having your husband write most of it.

    You might exhaust me at times, but your still an excellent source for those who are attempting being real. By the way...I'm on holiday for the next few years enjoying my fantasy with tomorrow.

    From: that bizarre hippie kind of guy who brings fattening, sugar loaded muffins to events and smokes cigars.

  7. Hey Damian, It's good to hear from ya! You've been quiet around here, I guess I just needed Mark to vent to get you to speak up eh! You would have such a wonderful perspective on "real thoughtful living" I should get you to write a guest blog entry... a "how to"... Keepin' it real... msg me if you are interested! :D

  8. "But at the end of the day, if some of you learn something, then my post is successful. With the help of my wonderful husband I present to you....."

    But at the end of the hour, if some were inspired to change, then the Event is successful. With the help of billions, I took a walk and for once could see the stars in the city.

    Don't be afraid to participate next year, with a few less lights , I might get to see one more star!