Once a year, you'll find that many famous places turn off their lights. Thousands of attractions, buildings, schools, and organizations around the globe go dark. The pyramids of Gizeh, the Eiffel tower and the Empire State Building... just to name a few. Why? It's the WWF EARTH HOUR - a simple idea for the largest worldwide climate protection campaign.
The idea behind EARTH HOUR
It all started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia with a little symbol to turn off the light for one hour. From there, it turned into a global movement. In 2017, EARTH HOUR reached more than 7,000 cities and communities in over 187 countries. Over 12,000 buildings and monuments were blacked-out.
Climate change is something we are all confronted with, yet it's easy to ignore or to not notice it.
Climate changes can happen extremely quickly and we're already losing animal and plant species. Oceans are becoming warmer, glaciers are melting, deserts are expanding. Weather has changed and that's something I think everyone can relate to. There are more storms, heavy rains, or heat waves. While no one in Austria complains about heat waves, I experienced one in India in 2015, and just because I was a lucky person who had enough money to buy water, I survived. I can't remember how many people died in total during this heat wave, but it was covered in the Indian newspaper every day. It was tragic and shocking. Also in Bali, the weather was crazy, as it was still warm and there was no rain in early December - the locals told us that wasn't normal at all.
As an Austrian kid, we still had four seasons and it was neccessary to have a jacket for spring/autumn. Nowadays, sometimes the temperatures jump crazy from a late summer to suddenly winter.
In Austria, those consequential damages of climate change in form of droughts or floods cost around a billion Euro per year.
In order to avoid the most dramatic consequences of climate change, we have to use less energy, change to reusable energy and protect our forests and oceans. But we can't do this on our own. Politicians need to help us to set parameters and companies need to save greenhouse gases.
What has to change?
This is the toughest question of all. If you you ask me, I think each step towards a more conscious and sustainable life helps our planet and it affects each and everyone of us even more than we might think. In one of my more recent posts, I wrote about a study that shows how important the Alps are for our health - they are the green lungs of Europe. And it was pointed out that fine dust pollution is linked to our lifespan. But not only that, it is linked with many diseases too - one is dementia. Therefore, I think it should be in all of our best interests to change something.
Climate and energy saving tips
First of all, you don't have to change your life entirely or stress out because you want to change your life around. I live in Vorarlberg, in the western part of Austria. We have a good public transport system and yet, if you are like me with several jobs, many hobbies and friends, family, and a partner, it is tough to get it all together without a car. Although I have a car, I try as much as possible to share a ride, and I leave my car at the train station and ride the train to work. When I'm traveling, I try to take the train to the airport or check to see if the journey is possible by train.
Also, the biggest problem is my air travel. I do fly quite frequently and I started to do a flight compensation in order to improve my carbon foot print. Simply type in what the distance was, the cost of your flight, and then donate to an organization that you like. Try and Google it (or better use Ecosia and plant some trees) - there are some different providers out there.
WWF has created a list with a few tips that can help our climate. Here you go!
Tips to save energy for the household
We can start in our households...here are your first tips!
- Efficient household appliances: The most efficient ones are labeled with A+++. If you're unsure, just ask the staff in the store.
- LED lamps: LED lamps use 80-90% less energy and their lifetime can be increased by 25-45 times.
- Standby: Most electrical devices take up energy in standby mode. I am horrible when it comes to unplugging my cell phone charger, for example. This is something I want to change and I am so happy whenever someone reminds me to unplug it. A multiple power outlet strip can help you if you simply turn off the switch.
- Washing machine: If you wash with cold water or at 40°C, you reduce the power usage significantly.
- Fridge: Many fridges are too cold. A good temperature is between 5 and 7 °C. Open and close the door quickly, and let the food reach room temperature before you put it into the fridge.
- Tumble dryer: Super convenient, yet true power eaters. Try as much as possible to let your clothes air dry and if you use the dryer, fill it up and use the energy save mode.
- Inrush airing instead of tilting the window: If your window is constantly open, a lot of energy is wasted. It's better to open the window every two hours for some fresh air and by doing so, your apartment won't get too cold.
- Water: Common sense - no running water while you brush your teeth, washing hands with cold water reduces energy, choose showering over a bath (will take up 5 times more water and energy). Depending on where you live, you might have high quality tap water. I usually never leave the house without my water bottle. This way, I make sure to stay hydrated, and I also avoid buying plastic bottles.
- Save paper: Try to print only what you need, and buy recycled paper whenever possible.
- Fix it: I am a bit scared that my generation or the ones to follow already like to throw things away once they don't work anymore. When I lived in Mozambique, I was surprised to see that there was one man in the village who knew how to repair flip flops - simply because people couldn't afford to buy new ones. It's frustrating to see, though, that in our society it's often more expensive to repair something than buying it new. When I returned from my long trip, I was so sad to admit that I had to get rid of my old car because buying another used model was about the same price than repairing the old one.
- Buy it used: My all-time favorite! I bought my MacBook and my iPhone used. I like to buy second hand clothes as well as sell my own clothes or give them away for free. It's saving resources, energy, and CO2.
As you know, during my long trip in 2015/16, I turned from a meat lover into a vegetarian. Whenever possible, I try to reduce dairy products and eat 50%
I am not here to tell you not to eat any meat at all. But, generally speaking, we eat too much meat. In Austria we eat double the amount of meat that is considered healthy by the ministry of health. Eating too much meat is not only affecting our health negatively, but it also is not good for the environment and the climate. Greenhouse gas emissions are evolving throughout the entire production process (soil cultivation, fertilizer, tractors and other machines, the cows' digestive gases, meat processing, production, and cooling). Not to underestimate the transport part. Additionally, in South America, huge areas of rainforests are used for the production of animal feed each year.
The problem, though, is not just the meat. We could try and eat more seasonal foods. And I will try to buy less avocados. I already reduced the amount drastically (although I do love them crazy crazy). But the amount of water that is used for one avocado, not to mention the entire transport process, is anything but good.
So here's the deal. Let's eat less meat or, in general, animal products (and if you do, please opt for organic meat), and instead choose more seasonal veggies and organic products.
When it comes to shopping, I've changed so many habits of mine already, but I am still in the process of changing. I try as much as possible to avoid buying products which contain palm oil, and I avoid plastic bags and products wrapped in plastic (We all know how hard that is!). More and more shops are avoiding plastic packaging, and I hope more are about to come. Here are a few tips you can consider for your next shopping adventure.
- Buy eco power: Eco power is 100% composed of regenerative energies such as the sun, wind, water, and biomass.
- Investing your money: Ask your bank which companies are supported by your financial investment. Invest money in companies who are responsible and who take care of the environment.
- Fair fashion: Try as much as possible to buy clothes in chains and try as much as possible to reduce the amount of fast fashion. If you can't afford fair fashion, buy things used from thrift stores or from your friends. Remember, sharing is caring - I do love to wear clothes from my friends and I'm happy if someone is still interested in wearing my clothes.
- Avoid palm oil: Almost every second product at the supermarket contains palm oil. I have seen palm oil production in Borneo and it's so sad to see how they turn jungles into plantations. If you consume palm oil, make sure it's organic. Here you can find more information about palm oil.
- Take your own shopping bag with you: In my case, I would constantly forget it, but I do keep two or three in my car so whenever I go shopping, I don't need to buy one. And I am super happy more and more shops are giving up plastic bags now and are encouraging people to bring their own bags. Plus, tote bags are still pretty cool to wear - much cooler than any paper or plastic bag, right?
How can you participate?
So Earth Hour sounds like something you'd like to join in on? Participating is easy peasy! Simply turn off the lights on March 24th at 8:30 PM (Austrian time) for one hour to take a stand for climate protection. If you want to know more about the campaign or if you want to set a resolution, you can do it here.
My resolution for this year? Try as much as possible to avoid using plastic cutlery (which I never do except for when I'm working a full day in the office and get a take away for lunch). And for Christmas, I got a cute bamboo cup - so yes to reusable coffee cups! I hope more and more cities are hopping on the reusable cup train. We're desperately in need for that.
No matter where you are on March 24th, try and participate in this global action for climate change. If you happen to be in Austria, just like me, you can find out here at WWF Austria about all the different activities taking place throughout the country.
Will you participate or have you ever participated in Earth Hour? I think I'll just turn off the lights and make one or two promises on their page and stick with them - and eat less avocados! Promise!
Oh, and if you're wondering what you could do during that dark hour - here's a list of things that just inspired me. On that day, I am going to spend the entire day surrounded by yoga, so I think I will either do a candlelight meditation or make some new resolutions for the climate.
*This blog post is a voluntary cooperation with WWF and I didn't get paid to write about it. It's simply a topic that is quite important to me and something I want to take more seriously.