Sustainability

Earth Hour is Not Just 60 Minutes. It Means More.

by ABFRLadmin | March 22, 2024

Small actions = Big Results. How marginal gains can help you live a more sustainable lifestyle over time!

As a regular follower of Earth Hour since this writer first saw an advertisement about it in 2013, this year would mark 11 years of participation in this small act of love for the planet. As a young kid going up to his dad and asking him if our family could participate, he was more than eager to carry out the plan. Of course, as I later realized, his reasons may have been more to do with lowering our electricity bill for the month than more altruistic motivations, but nonetheless, our family has been consistent participants ever since.

It was surprising to me in the years since to find out that not everyone looks at Earth Hour the same way. Many people I have discussed this with have shared doubts about the impact of turning off your lights for an hour on one day of the year. After all, what impact could such a small act bring, especially when you live wastefully for the rest of the year? The reasoning is sound for sure, if a little pessimistic, but nevertheless – It’s time to argue the case on behalf of Earth Hour. It’s important, it makes a difference and yes, it should be here to stay.

To present my opening argument, first we must explain the concept of marginal gains. For this we go back to 2003, to London, to the offices of the official Federation of British Cycling. It was in this year that a man named Dave Brailsford was hired as the performance director of a team that had endured 100 years of mediocrity in cycling events at the Olympics.

His philosophy to change this output was not upheaval, but constant tweaking. In his words “The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improve it by 1 percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.”

Examine. Improve. Extract Value.

Every day. All the time.

In practice, the team achieved this by redefining cycling with the power of marginal gains. Tiny tweaks became a secret weapon.
They started with the obvious: redesigned, more comfortable saddles and grippier tires. But Brailsford didn’t stop there. Heated overshorts maintained ideal muscle temperature, bio-feedback sensors monitored training responses, and wind tunnel tests yielded lighter, more aerodynamic suits.
The obsession extended beyond the bike. They tested massage gels for faster recovery, hired a surgeon to give hand-washing tutorials to minimize illness, and found the perfect pillow and mattress for each rider’s sleep. Even the team truck received a white paint job – to easily spot dust particles that could compromise bike performance.
Hundreds of these seemingly insignificant changes compounded into a winning formula. Team Sky’s eventual dominance was a testament to the power of marginal gains, proving that small improvements, relentlessly pursued, can yield extraordinary results.
At the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, Team Britain led the tables for cycling events with 8 gold medals won in each event.
This same concept, of making small, tiny, minute improvements in several different areas can be applied to any walk of life if you think about it – and here I advocate for it to be applied copiously in a way, that any of you can live a sustainable life that adds up to big results for the planet.

Isn’t that what Earth Hour is about after all? A small action made by millions of people that compounds into a massive result.

Complete upheaval is simply not for everyone. However, if change is a constant, then embrace the small ones that will change your legacy.

Here are some ways in which you can apply marginal gains to your lifestyle to live more sustainably.

1.Shorter Showers: Reduce your shower time by just 2 minutes. This seemingly small change can save litres of water daily, and when compounded over a week or month, that number of savings would be in the thousands!

2.Be Energy-Efficient: Replace outdated appliances with 4 & 5 energy-star certified models. This might seem like a bigger investment, but the long-term energy savings WILL be significant. The best way to make a marginal gain here is to simply be mindful of switching off your lights, fans, ACs, TVs etc. from the source, ensuring standby power consumption doesn’t have a chance

3.Utilize Natural Light: Open curtains or blinds during the day to maximize natural light in your home. This reduces dependence on artificial lighting, lowering your energy consumption. Natural light is also scientifically proven to be a mood-booster, which means you can be sunny in more ways than one.

4.Conscious Cooking: Plan your meals and buy only what you need to avoid food waste. Leftovers can be repurposed for future meals, minimizing food spoilage. Consider smaller portion sizes to further reduce waste. Ditch the delivery as much as you can, the carbon footprint of a rider delivering your meals daily cannot be understated. Use food steamers instead of microwaves to heat up food whenever possible, to make sure you minimize energy consumption through electricity.

5.Unplug Electronics: Don’t just turn off electronics; unplug them from the power source when not in use. Standby power consumption is a thing, and it adds up over time. Eliminating it makes a small but impactful difference.

6.Sustainable Transportation: Opt for walking, cycling, or carpooling whenever possible. If using public transportation isn’t convenient, consider carpooling with colleagues or neighbors. Even a few car-free days per week contribute to reduced emissions. With Metros in major cities, you can make a real impact by opting for public transport whenever possible.

7.Reusable Alternatives: Invest in reusable water bottles, shopping bags, and coffee cups. Replacing disposable options with reusable alternatives significantly reduces plastic waste over time. Try bringing a coffee mug to work one day instead of using paper cups, and you’ll notice how much less waste you create.

8.Water-Saving Techniques: Brush your teeth while turning off the faucet. Fix leaky faucets promptly. Implement water-saving showerheads and washing machine settings. Every drop saved adds up.

9.Mindful Consumption: Before buying new clothes or items, consider if you truly need them. A good practice is when you see something you want to buy, wait a week. If you still want it after letting a week pass by and not actively thinking about it, it might not have been that important after all.

Practice the “three R’s” – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Scour your local thrifting store for options or mend existing items instead of throwing them away.

10.Green Cleaning Products: Opt for eco-friendly cleaning products when possible. Many DIY cleaning solutions using vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice can be just as effective with a lower environmental impact. One example is to create a water and vinegar solution in a 50:50 ratio, add it to a spray bottle and use it to clean and deodorize your kitchen surfaces. Cost-effective and always handy!

Much like all the above tips, the concept of 60 minutes of putting lights out not making a difference might still be your first thought. However, I ask you to add up the numbers from Asia and Africa, North and South America, Oceania and Europe – millions of supporters in over 190 countries and territories – all giving an hour for our one home, creating the Biggest Hour for Earth.
My closing argument in favour of Earth Day has nothing to do with the impact. It comes from a feeling of fellowship – doesn’t it feel great to do things in a group? To feel like part of something bigger?

Well, tomorrow’s your chance. I’ll see you at lights out.

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