The “Feel-good” hour

Anyone who knows me should realize that I consider myself  eco-friendly.  I’m a religious (almost compulsive) recycler, I walk and bike as much as I can and even have a compost pile in  my back yard.  Yet I didn’t “celebrate” Earth hour.  Why?  Well I think that being environmentally friendly is a lifestyle choice, not something you act out once a year like Christmas Eve.  And while I completely  respect  the idea behind the hour to raise awareness on our electricity usage, I think it has  the  unintended effect of making people feel good about themselves without really accomplishing much. “Oh yeah, I’m helped the earth out, right after I ate a HUUUGE steak for supper”

Even if a person shut down ALL of their electrical devices for that hour, they only reduced their annual consumption by a measly 0.0114%!!  And I’ll bet the very next day, they’ll return to the same mega-consumption that we North Americans are so good at.  Wal-mart, Home Depot, and Costco are going to be just as busy on Mar 28 as they were the day before.

If you REALLY want to be more gentle on the earth, there are lot more ways to do it but its going to take some sacrifices. I’ve got a couple of ideas that will take more than one hour of effort per year on your part:  Walk, drive, take the bus.  Drink tap water instead of bottled. Live in a smaller house closer to the places you spend your time (work, grocery store, etc). Look at your energy consumption from all angles. Do you really need to buy/operate that leaf blower/pressure-washer/Magic Bullet? How much garbage do you throw out and what does that say about your consumption?   Do you over-eat and then drive to a gym where you run on an electrical treadmill?  Buy LESS instead of recycling MORE.

Again, not trying to be a whole downer on the concept of being more eco-friendly.  I’m glad there is an event like this to raise awareness.  I just think more people come out of this event thinking they ‘did their part’ rather than making significant lifestyle changes.

[edit: I’m going to make a future comment on corporations using this event as a PR opportunity.  Dimming your lights for an hour does little to show me your environmental awareness]

6 Comments

Thanks for blogging about this Daryl. By posting your thoughts and sharing them you’ve already confirmed the true premise of earth day; to create awareness and inspire others to do something meaningful. It becomes a sort of “pay it forward” resolution.

Hi Daryl, Are we allowed to disagree with your blog? Cause I kinda do. I do ride my bike, drink tap water, recycle….I think I do my part to respect my earth…as much as can be done in the fast paced, consumer-based world we are living in today. I think the the idea behind earth day is continue to build on our awareness of our earth and remind us of the need to think about how our actions affect the planet. I think that does carry forward to everyday life. If a small amount of people put as much thought into earth day as you or I did, then I think it did accomplish something…I did participate in earth day and I felt good about it….now I gotta go….making a trip to Costco…:)

You are absolutely allowed to disagree! I wanted to inspire debate in this posting. However, I don’t think you and I disagree all that much. From what you say, you seem to ‘get it’ since you’ve made additional (permanent) changes. Wow, I remember a Nicole who used to drive from Rosemead to the hospital! 🙂 All kidding aside, I wonder how many other people have made changes. Just last summer we hit a new record in power consumption in the Okanagan. This is after several years of “Earth Hours” and countless initiatives by (some) residents to use less power. And I still find it sad that we live in the driest part of Canada yet have the highest water consumption. Clearly a lot of us don’t “get it” and we have along ways to go. I guess my point is that “awareness” without action is wasted effort. So anyone who feels good for turning their lights for an hour and then goes about their lives in an unchanged way doesn’t deserve a pat on their back for that hour. In fact they deserve a kick in the ass!

I totally agree with what you’re saying, but I think you’d be surprised by how many people still don’t think about the environment/climate change on a regular basis. For people like you and me, who are already concerned about it, Earth Hour may seem like a fluffy (relative) waste of time and effort.

But, it’s the awareness that is important and even if it gets one or two more people thinking about climate change and the environment, and start considering how their lifestyle affects all of us, then it’s worth it in my book.

In the end, I think it still does more good than harm.

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