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Earth Hour: Ask South Africans what it truly means to sit in the dark

April 01, 2019

Earth Hour: Ask South Africans what it truly means to sit in the dark

On Saturday, March 30 at 8:30pm local time, millions of people around the world will turn off their lights for one hour to show their steadfast commitment to protecting nature. With fossil fuels accounting for approximately 80% of global energy production, electricity production treads heavily on the environment. The global Earth hour movement aims to raise awareness around the devastating impact of our heavy reliance on power.

Given South Africa’s current electricity crisis, with 24 hours of loadshedding over a four-day period and no firm end in sight, it is unlikely that many will choose to voluntarily turn off the lights for Earth Hour. We know all too well what it’s like to sit in the dark, and we’re angry (rightly so) over the billions of Rands lost daily through SOE Eskom’s current energy crisis.

Make it count

And yet, what if we choose to turn this burdensome restriction on its head? What if we use our earth hours to really reflect on the effects of climate change, and how embracing less power, even when we don’t have to, can be the best move we can make towards a sustainable future? Yes, it’s putting a positive spin on a national disaster, but isn’t that what South Africans do best?

Much like Day Zero re-programmed Capetonians into really grasping the need to steward a precious resource, here are five ways you can make every hour Earth hour:

1. Keep it hot

If the three minutes before the power cuts are spent boiling your kettle and transferring the water into an urn to keep the water hot, why not continue this practice on a regular basis, to conserve both electricity and water? In general, devices that are used to heat anything up use the most power (the tumble dryer being the worst culprit); and while it may only take 0.1kWh to boil a kettle, the numerous daily occasions add up and are often unnecessary.

2. Solar or bust

If solar is the future, the future is now. While in the past the primary investment in solar power was a big obstacle to adoption, the payback period of the investment and the rewards (especially against current risk) makes solar power an ever more accessible and sensible option. Going off the grid or supplementing your household energy intake with solar water heaters or solar electricity generation is a massive step towards sustainable living.

3. An insulated approach

Winter is coming and chances are that this year your oil-fin heater will stay packed away in the garage. The addition of insulation into a home, especially insulating your loft, attic or roof is possibly one of the fastest ways to reduce heat loss and use less energy, keeping your home more comfortable. There are a number of eco-friendly insulation products on the market to consider.

4. Cold shower power

Geysers consumer massive amounts of energy. While not many people will readily embrace a future of cold showers, invigorating as they may be, turning the temperature of your geyser down to 55-60 degrees will not affect the water temperature too much. Use a timer for your geyser and experiment with the minimum amount of heating time it needs to deliver piping hot water for your family.

5. The lights are on…

If you’ve flicked the switch and you’re in luck, make sure you’re burning energy-saving bulbs. LED lights can save up to 90% energy compared to a traditional bulb with the same light output. The light sources also last longer – up to ten times longer than a traditional bulb. Put another way, lighting up a normal incandescent bulb costs 75c per hour while an LED or CFL bulbs cost 12c per hour.

As we commemorate earth hour on Saturday and every day thereafter in our uncertain circumstances, let’s see it as a chance to reflect on even bigger uncertainties – namely, our planet’s future. And celebrate the fact that, with every small energy saving we make, we can contribute towards positive change.

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