Let Your Light Follow You Around

In August I heard of the launch of an excellent idea called One Hundred Months (www.onehundredmonths.org). The web site says:

“We have 100 months to save the planet. When the clock stops ticking we could be beyond the climate’s ‘tipping point’, the point of no return.”

I really like the idea behind the site as in the same way that I hope 4000 Saturdays focuses people’s attention to the importance and timeliness of their lives, One Hundred Months focuses our attention to making a difference at home (our planet) today.

On signing up, you receive an action by email to do each month which will make a positive impact on climate change. I received the first action today – switch to a 100% renewable energy supplier. Another action was to make suggestions for future actions, so here is mine:

LET YOUR LIGHT FOLLOW YOU AROUND

Much of the focus recently has been about changing to energy-saving light bulbs and now there is a big push to change to renewable energy suppliers. These are fantastic and two things which I have done. However it strikes me that this focus is not really getting to the route of the problem. What’s that? It’s our habit of a lifetime – leaving lights on.

When I was a kid, my Dad always used to grumble about us leaving the lights on (more purse-string driven than environmental back then). As a father, I can now totally empathise with him. With the nights drawing in, the lights are coming on sooner. With energy prices skyrocketing and winter upon us, we’re going to soon find out just how much it’ll cost us to light up our homes like Christmas trees. As we “travel” around our homes moving from one room to the next, many of us simply leave lights on as we’ll “be back in a mo”. For many it seems pointless turning lights off. With a family, this is multiplied by the number of people travelling around the home going about their routines. I’ve realised in my own life this is really just a daft habit which has never been questioned until now.

Over the last few days I set myself a new rule… Let The Light Follow Me Around. It’s painfully simple but has given me a focus which I think has halved the amount of energy we use in the home overnight. The premise is based on two ideas: (1) How our ancestors lived (carrying a candle from room to room) and (2)A new eco idea of removing all light switches in homes and replacing them with movement sensors on the doorways (I’m sure someone has invented this but if not, you are welcome to it). As you enter a room the light comes on, as you leave, the light goes off. Now there are lots of unanswered technical questions about this idea such as what if someone else comes in the room, but you get the general idea. I’m sure in ecological terms, the idea of ripping out light switches, manufacturing (and powering) sensors and refitting is not worth the energy saved, so in absence of this, let’s all start to do it manually…

The more we focus on the cause rather than the effect, the better we can look after our planet. I always remember the story of the garbage men/dustmen striking in Los Angeles. As the rubbish piled up on the street, the city became infested with rats. Rather than focusing their attention on how to resolve the strike so the rubbish would be collected, the council focused on getting rid of the rats. Energy-saving bulbs and renewable energy suppliers are with us now because of our bad habits of the past.

Habits are formed and can only be broken when they are replaced with a new habit. Life is not about being the best, but trying to just be better than we were yesterday. In a way, that means striving to replace one of our many habits with something slightly better. As creatures of habit, most of our day (and therefore our life) is dictated by the routines we have all become.

If letting my light follow me around has halved my illuminating energy usage, that’s half of the energy-saving bulbs to be manufactured, and a good 25% less demand I am putting on my renewable energy supplier. Multiple that through the country, and then the world and the effects could be stunning.

So who wants to start the “LET YOUR LIGHT FOLLOW YOU AROUND” Campaign?

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1 comment

    • sharayu gangurde on September 4, 2008 at 9:25 am

    hi, mark! this is sharayu from mumbai, india… i study architecture, and im in my 4th yr now.. unfortunately though im in an architecture coll, sadly my classmates never bother about switching off the lights when the studios are not used! they might work on sustainable projects and even use great materials and energy resources in their designs, but NEVER bother about actions in what they are learning! after reading your blog, i realised Indians simply dnt care(through my personal experiences), we have seminars and lectures on environment friendly construction techniques…which are never bought and practised into reality!

    just wanted to say mark, i read about the 100 months project and im putting up their posters in college tomorrow… lets hope together people try and understand and learn to care….! please keep up this good work.. 🙂

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