I’m not a fan of empty gestures over social media and I don’t believe that changing my Facebook status results in real change. I also don’t believe that Earth Hour is an empty, symbolic gesture because it results in a measurable difference, no matter how small that difference it is.
For many people, Earth Hour comes and goes without notice and the amount of energy conserved over that one hour is just a drop in the bucket – especially since the largest consumers of energy, industry, are extremely unlikely to participate. Turning out the lights may be more about changing a mindset than consuming less energy (as was the case for this writer), but still, an hour without lights, TVs, or other electronic devices is a powerful statement in our plugged-in world (a sentiment eloquently described here).
I was visiting my sister’s place this past weekend. She had mentioned that, although her five year old had really wanted to participate in Earth Hour on March 29th, they hadn’t remembered…they also forgot the next weekend when they had promised him a do-over Earth Hour. So, when I needed something to write about for Day 8 (which was Sunday, it’s just taken me awhile to find time to write), I suggested that we have an Earth Hour over dinner. Her kids, who are three and five, helped find candles (even though it was still light out) and set them out. We then went around the house turning out lights and making sure there were no TV sets or computers on. It ended up being a fun learning experience for the kids. Her five year old explained Earth Hour to us – although, we’re all still a bit confused about how Spider-Man factored into it…
So was it entirely symbolic? No. However small the decrease in energy consumption was, it was a decrease. It was also a teaching moment for all of us. Afterwards, my husband suggested that we unplug for an hour every month. So the eighth activity of my 30 day challenge will be to unplug for at least an hour every month (hopefully more often and for longer).
What measurable difference will this make? See below. I copied the hourly usage data for my house from the evening of March 29th when my husband’s family was over for dinner. The average household of four in Ontario (according to the Ontario Ministry of Energy) uses 800 kilowatt hours per month. So a drop from 3.9 kWh to 0.29 kWh around 9pm isn’t insignificant. What’s even more exciting is that our usage stayed down after Earth Hour was over while we finished our game of Trivial Pursuit by candle light.