Earth Hour gets a lot of media attention, arguably more than Earth Day. I think it’s because an hour is such a manageable target – you can do just about anything for an hour (other than holding your breath). So for the average person who doesn’t want to think too much about living green, an hour of sitting in the dark is totally doable. And with the media hype it gets, people feel a sense of accomplishment and that they’re part of a movement that means something. But while the premise of Earth Hour is a good one (in my mind anything that gets people thinking about our planet is worthwhile), it doesn’t mean much. Here’s a much better way to spend Earth Hour that will have positive, long-term impacts.
8:30: Go around your home and turn off all unnecessary lights. Make note of which ones are on unnecessarily and decide if you can remember to turn them off moving forward, or consider installing timer power bars or occupancy sensors. Make a plan to go out and buy these if needed (put it in your calendar!).
8:40: Conduct an electronics audit. Are your computer, printer, and monitor set to shutdown or hibernate when not in use? Are your TV and audio equipment plugged into power bars that you turn off? Consider getting a timer powerbar for these too, or a kill switch.
8:55: Do you have a programmable thermostat? If not, add to your calendar to go pick one up or contact your HVAC contractor. If you already have one, check that the settings make sense for your schedule and time of year. If you don’t have control of the temperature in your home, write a note to your landlord if it’s consistently too hot in the winter or too cold in the summer since that’s usually a sign of wasted energy.
9:05: If you have a furnace, check the filter. If you haven’t replaced it in the last 3 months or can’t remember when it was replaced, switch it out now (or put “furnace filters” on your shopping list).
9:10: Clean out your fridge. If you have produce that’s about to go bad, pop it in the freezer to make stock with later. Don’t automatically toss things past their due date without doing at least a sniff-test. If you have to dispose of food gone bad, make sure you recycle containers and compost wasted food accordingly. Consider adding an “Eat Me Now” bin to prevent food waste going forward.
9:30: Grab a glass of wine, take a look at your calendar and shopping list, and commit to taking these simple steps towards reducing your energy and food waste.
Celebrate a job well done and a productive hour! These tasks are much more effective than just symbolically turning your lights off. Going green doesn’t have to be hard. If you can make these changes in an hour, imagine what you can do over the course of a few months!