Wednesday 18 March 2015

Beyond Earth Hour: the Earth Night experiment

With Earth Hour 2015 fast approaching - 10 sleeps to go! - I decided to revisit one of my favourite ways to extend the idea of turning off the lights for action on climate change.

Electricity-free in 2011
Four years ago, almost to the day, I had my first electricity-free night, an Earth Night so to speak. 

It became a weekly habit during my No Impact month, which began on Earth Hour 2011 and was inspired by No Impact Man Colin Beavan's one-year, no-environmental-impact experiment in New York City. (See Why "No Impact Girl"? for more on that.) 

For something so simple - spending one night, from sundown to bedtime, without any electric lights, devices or appliances - it was a revelation. 

"It was like camping, with comforts and your own bed," I raved the morning after in one of my first-ever blog posts. I loved that the house was silent but for the hum of the fridge. I loved playing Scrabble by candlelight. I loved the Wuthering Heights-like shadows that flickered on the walls when I carried candles from room to room like a Bronte sister.

Best of all, it was intensely calming, an island of quiet in an otherwise ordinary working week.

Christmas Island Earth Hour
Pic by Carla Grossetti
I was hooked. (What's the point of it, you might be wondering? Read this post: Candle power.) Then I lapsed. I kept celebrating Earth Hour: my most memorable one happened on tropical Christmas Island during a media trip when my fellow writers and I swam by candelight in a sea cave. Priceless.

The last time I did an electricity-free night was last northern summer when I had two whole weeks of them in an electricity-free cabin in Norway, although I use the term "night" loosely; it didn't get properly dark until 11pm. 

So I was long overdue for another. Last week, I ordered a box of beeswax candles, the world's most environmentally friendly candles, from Northern Light, based here in northern NSW. When they arrived, I picked a night and turned off the lights - or rather didn't turn them on when the sun set. 
"Night" in Norway

I didn't turn on the tv to watch the news. I turned off my phone, iPad, computer and Kindle - and tuned in. For the first time in a long time I was aware of the gathering darkness. The sounds of night coming. I lit a few candles, and peace descended. 

Everything looks more beautiful and more rustic by the honey glow of a few beeswax candles. I made dinner using the electric stove (I don't have a gas stove this time; at least my electricity comes from solar panels all over the roof) and ate by candlelight. I read an actual book and wrote with a pen and paper, went outside to look at the stars, carried a candle into the bathroom to brush my teeth. The night seemed long, in a good way. 

Just an ordinary Thursday night - suddenly made simple, spacious and timeless. It also reminded me how fortunate we are to have lights to turn off: 1.2 billion people on our planet live without electricity every night.

Earth Hour is a great start - it's on Saturday March 28 this year, 8.30-9.30pm wherever you are - an incredible social movement that started in Sydney and now connects hundreds of millions of people in more than 160 countries every year. Watch the video here.

But why not keep the candles burning? Have an electricity-free night once a month, do it solo or with someone you love, pack a picnic and dine under the stars or the streetlights or on the beach, have a moonlit swim, invite friends over for candlelit conversation... More ideas here.

Happy Earth Hour, everyone!

1 comment:

  1. We're lucky not to have street lights so the glow of candlelight at night is amazing - watching a flame is incredibly relaxing