Earth Hour is an annual movement to raise awareness on environmental issues such as global warming, climate change, deforestation and pollution. In other words, it’s the one hour a year that people finally band together and actually try to do something about our climate crisis.
Since the pandemic hit last year and the world was placed under quarantine, we’ve seen what a conscious world looks like (read: clear and with much less pollution-induced asthma), but the real question is: Does this have anything to do with turning off the lights?
Earth Hour has a lovely sentiment and a wonderful message. Plus, the organisation has achieved some very admirable things with the awareness they’ve garnered such as planting half a million trees in Uganda to create the first Earth Hour Forest, catalysing the protection of 3.4 hectares of Argentinian oceans and launching education programmes in Thailand and Taiwan.
However, it cannot be ignored that the event is only symbolic, not an actual energy and carbon reduction exercise. The real impact from the event comes from each and every one of us making a conscious effort to reduce our environmental impact outside of Earth Hour.
So, in the spirit of keeping our Earth habitable, here are a few ways to one-up your efforts and really help reduce our environmental impact:
1. Turn off your lights and change your bulbs
It’s simple—if you’re not in a room, turn the light out to save energy (duh). However, the type of bulb you use is important in energy conservation too. Halogen and incandescent bulbs are the least efficient lights and waste 90 per cent of the energy that they use as heat. Instead, opt for LED lights, which are incredibly efficient and are the ideal choice as they use less energy and last much longer.
2. Turn off your air conditioner when you’re not using it
There’s no doubt that we’ve been caught in a heatwave in the last few weeks (because we live in Malaysia), so it’s understandable that you’d have your air conditioning on all day long. However, in the spirit of eco-friendliness, consider… not doing that.
Before you strop, there’s an alternative; put your unit on full blast until your room is cooled enough then switch it off, and turn it back on when it gets warm again. It may seem counterintuitive, but actually turning your unit on and off as needed is more environmentally friendly (and wallet friendly).
Keeping it running all day long at a higher temperature wastes more energy in the long run as air conditioning units are most efficient at their full capacity. So, turning it off and on as needed is a great move to save energy and extend the life of your unit while you’re at it. Plus, there are, of course, other ways to beat the heat—fans, cold showers, opening windows and wearing less clothes are but a few.
3. Watch your candles
We regret to inform you that your efforts to be more environmentally conscious during Earth Hour may have backfired. Yes, the candles that you use matter: Paraffin wax, which is the most commonly used and most inexpensive wax for candles, is derived from crude oil. Essentially, when you burn a paraffin wax candle, you’re releasing toxic benzene and toluene fumes while contributing to your carbon footprint, which is a little counterintuitive.
Instead, look for candles made of beeswax or vegetable waxes as these are the most eco-friendly options. Beeswax is biodegradable, smokeless and sootless—the only downside is that it’s not vegan and thus not suitable for all. A good compromise is any vegetable wax, such as coconut and rapeseed waxes, as they are both biodegradable and renewable. However, beware of soy wax—although it’s natural, renewable and biodegradable, it’s not sustainable as the soybean industry contributes heavily to deforestation and greenhouse gases.
READ: The most luxurious scented candles to deck your home with
4. Buy less, and buy ethical
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The fashion industry is responsible for 10 per cent of annual global carbon emissions, one of the most polluting industries on earth and therefore one of the biggest contributors to climate change. The rise of fast fashion and unethical business practises has paved the way for the mass production of non-degradable synthetic fabrics, all of which inevitably end up in landfills.
Reducing your consumption of fast fashion by buying vintage or limited-run, sustainable and biodegradable pieces will help to reduce the demand for ‘trendy’ clothing and therefore our carbon footprint.
READ: 10 Malaysian fashion brands that do social good
5. Go veggie (at least once a week)
The meat industry is another polluting industry with questionable ethics and a big hand in climate change. Controversial animal treatment aside, the meat farming industry is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases globally and one of the biggest contributors to loss of diversity. Reducing your meat consumption even a little bit (have you tried vegan meat?) will help to reduce the impacts of climate change.
READ: 9 Best plant-based and vegan-friendly restaurants in KL
Earth Hour 2021 will occur on the 27th of March from 8:30-9:30pm Malaysia Time.
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