Monday, March 30, 2009

Making Earth Hour last the whole year ‘round

This past weekend was Earth Hour, the annual event sponsored by the World Wildlife Federation where everyone around the world is asked to turn off their lights for one hour to show their support for the planet. While the actual results varied, the point wasn’t really to hit a specific number. It was to get people thinking about ways they can reduce their own carbon footprint and environmental impact on the Earth.

I guess the first question I have is did you participate? Assuming you knew it was going on (due to all the media coverage about it), did you actually turn off your lights at 8:30 PM Saturday night? And if you did, did you leave them off or turn them back on at 9:30? I did participate, and felt pretty good about it.

Still, Earth Hour was largely symbolic. People like events, and being part of a global movement. So my other question is what changes will you make to carry forward the “spirit” of Earth Hour throughout the year?

Hopefully one is to think about your use of lights overall. The easiest change you can make is to follow your Mom’s yells to turn off the lights when you leave a room. While Mom was probably more interested in saving on the family electric bill than saving the planet, it works for both.

You can also think about whether you need to turn on the lights at all – or which lights you turn on. If you’re working or playing in a room with ample natural sunlight, why not leave the lights off? Switching from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescents (CFLs) can also help.

Of course, electricity consumption isn’t just about lights. Another easy thing you can do is turn off your computer when you’re done using it. Sure, it might take an extra minute or so while the computer boots up, but you’ll be making another contribution to the planet. I just saw an article that says half of all office workers still leave their computers powered up when they leave work. Shutting them down is an easy way to help save the planet. You can always get your morning coffee while it boots up.

Then there’s the fax machine. It’s constantly consuming power 24/7, even when it’s not doing anything. In fact, the US EPA says fax machines are the biggest power-wasters among all office equipment, even referring to them as “energy vampires.” Replacing fax machines with a green technology such as MyFax Internet fax service can have a positive effect not only on energy consumption but also on paper consumption and e-waste.

The point is, there are lots of little things we all can do to carry forth the spirit of Earth Hour. If enough of us do enough of them, those little things will add up to a significant impact. Best of all, doing them is pretty painless.

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