Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour '09 and beyond

I said in an earlier post that I need to stop neglecting this little slice of the 'net, but obviously I have not followed through.

That's not due to lack of interest in the subject matter, mind you. I'm still making the effort to find little ways to to reduce my footprint.

And this year, I plan to participate in Earth Hour.

I was not able to last year because I was at a...huh...professional wrestling event and I was not confident that they would honour my request to turn off the lights and have the matches by candle light.

Let's move on to a good article from the Ottawa Sun today. There are plenty of articles about Earth Hour out there, but I favour this one because it offers suggestions on how to incorporate Earth Hour into the rest of the year.

Here we go:
Earth Hour is set to become the largest global action in human history.

Really? This surprises me because it seemed to be getting far less hype this year. Perhaps it's becoming ingrained, like Earth Day. Why the hell did no one think of Earth Year??

If all goes according to plan, at 8:30 p.m. local time today, one billion people in more than 1,000 cities around the world will be turning off their lights.

The idea is to focus global attention on the need for action on climate change

While the simplicity of the one-hour event makes it powerful, organizers say it's just a start.

"Turning the lights off for Earth Hour is a great first step, but if you really want to see a difference, then make Earth Hour part of your everyday life," says the Earth Hour website.
You hear that, non-believers?

A pet peeve of mine are people who debate by arguing points that aren't being made. You often hear people say "Turning off your lights for one hour isn't going to do a thing to affect the Earth's temperature". No one is saying it will. That's not the intent.

Despite growing concern about climate change, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions increased nearly 22% between 1990 and 2005. By the end of 2006, Canada's total emissions were 29% above the Kyoto target.

The good news is that during the same period, greenhouse gas emissions from Canada's housing sector decreased by 8.5%, despite a 28% increase in housing, reports the Canadian Home Builders' Association. This translates into an average 15% decrease per household.

Interesting stat. I would be curious to know by what method the reduction was achieved.

The most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to reduce energy use. According to Natural Resources Canada, within the average Canadian household, 60% of energy is used for space heating, 18% for heating water, and 14% for appliance use. Lighting accounts for 5%, and space cooling 3%. With that in mind, here's a list of suggestions that can reduce household energy use and save money:
More interesting stats. I questioned that having a house full of CFL's was not having the impact that I thought it should (judging from the total of my electricity bill). But if lighting only accounts for 5%, I guess that explains it somewhat.

Here's another thing that struck us though (I may have mentioned this before...I repeat myself constantly): We have CFL's everywhere, and they use about a third of the evergy of "conventional" light bulbs...but almost every light switch in the house will light three or four of them. So...what's the point??

The solution for us then is to be careful as to which ones we actually use. We have a pot light above the shower in the master bathroom. We use that one most because the "main" light switch flicks on four bulbs. Duh.

I'm sorry, I interrupted the list of suggestions. Here it is.

1. Lower your thermostat by just one degree. This can reduce your residential heating bill by as much as 10%, according to Natural Resources Canada. While many Canadians lower their thermostats at night, lowering daytime temperatures, particularly when no one is home, can add up to big energy savings.

2. Install a programmable thermostat and learn how to use it. While 40% of Canadian households have programmable thermostats, an estimated 20% of these don't use them.

3. Switch to cold water in the laundry. Washing in cold water can reduce energy use by 80% and save $100 a year in hot water.

4. Line-dry your clothes. This can cut household energy bills by as much as 15%. As an added bonus, the sun's ultra-violet rays naturally bleach and disinfect clothes, eliminating the need for chlorine bleach and other harsh chemicals.

This reminds me of one of the dumber questions I asked when I got started with my self-imposed training. We were looking into buying appliances for the new house. We made it a point to seek out Energy Star ones. Dishwasher, fridge, washer and...hey, they don't make Energy Star clothes dryers.

"Sure they do," Mrs THIT pointed out, "They call them 'clotheslines'."


5. Have a home energy audit. Most provinces now have government Home Energy Audit programs that help offset audit costs and provide grants for energy efficiency improvements.

6. Caulk and weather strip doors and windows. This can reduce heating bills by 25%, according to the David Suzuki Foundation.

7. Use power bars for televisions, DVD players, video game consoles and other electronic equipment. As much as 10% of household electricity is consumed by appliances that are turned off, but continue to draw power in stand-by mode. This referred to as phantom load.

8. Upgrade your appliances. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, replacing a 10-year-old refrigerator with a new Energy Star approved model can save enough energy to light your home for more than three months.

9. Be water-wise. Pumping water is responsible for as much as two-thirds of the total electricity used by municipalities. Take shorter showers, install low-flow toilets and sink aerators. Reducing water use in the shower will also help cut your hot water bill.

10. Educate yourself. Visit

Now here's something I learned; I asked Mrs THIT what she planned to do during that hour and she said something about watching TV or some such.

What what what?? No way! But apparently, that's allowed. You just need to have your lights off, but can use electricity for other purposes.

Nonsense. All electricity is banned here for that hour.

And I won't make the same mistake I made the last time we had a power failure. Somehow, I decided that it would be a good idea to shave by candlelight.

It isn't.


Anonymous said...

I SO meant to participate! But I was at a concert that night at a yoga centre. Have to say that lights were very low though:)

I also get frustrated when people say that turning off the lights for one hour does not matter. First, every little bit helps. And second, they just don't get the point that it raises awareness. No wonder the planet is in such a state:(

Keep up your good work!


Anonymous said...

Today being "Earth Day", what a perfect place to wish a "Happy Earth Day" to all.

Please, remain aware. And be gentle to Mother Earth.


Mary Q Contrarie said...

Last year I made a committment on Earth Hour to commute to work on my bicycle most of the time. I have done really good at that. Now this year I have committed to not using my clothes dryer. Instead I have purchased a new clothes drying rack that I can use inside or on the back deck. It will be interesting to see how I do this winter...

Anonymous said...

It is so uplifting to see people doing their share to heal and save the planet.

A couple years ago, I was given a gift certificate to a local hardware store. And I used it to buy a manual lawn mower and a clothes drying rack. And now, I have almost no use for the dryer in the summer.

As for winter, there are nice indoor clothes drying racks. And I also have some kind of clothes line in the basement.

But when all is said and done...even if one uses the clothes drying rack mostly in summer only, it is still a great step in the right direction:}

Let's all keep up!


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