How many Earth Hours do we need?

Lincoln was a great deal darker last Saturday as the most recognised feature of the city skyline turned off its lights for the annual Earth Hour. The cathedral was one of many landmarks across the world to participate in the 60-minute blackout, which aimed to promote energy sustainability and all things environmental.

If every home in Lincoln turned off one light bulb in their house for an hour, the city would have saved four tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. So was this no more than a grand gesture, or did Earth Hour actually make a difference in city homes?

People polled by The Lincolnite on the streets of Lincoln admitted that they had little to no idea what Earth Hour was about, and typical responses were those of surprise: “oh, was it”…”I knew nothing about it”…”I had no clue”.

Kerry Houghton (25) reinforced the views: “I’ve never heard of it and none of my friends have mentioned it.” Even environmentally aware Kim Pacey (27), who lives in an eco-friendly council house, complete with energy-saving lights and solar panels, knew nothing about last week’s event.

Going green

Despite this lack of awareness, people speaking to The Lincolnite were positive about a greener Lincoln, with the majority encouraging future plans to get unplugged. Though Earth Hour had bypassed them, most were actively trying to save energy in their homes, primarily by switching off idle appliances and investing in energy-efficient light bulbs.

Unsurprisingly, shrinking monthly costs was the main motivation for many, though this wasn’t always reflected in their bank statements. “The bills haven’t gone up but then we haven’t seen any savings,” said Matt Smith (44). Kim Pacey, however, has seen a notable savings, indicating how effective solar panels can be in reducing energy costs, albeit with a hefty initial expense.

Not everyone was as concerned with bills though: “My parents and their parents before them have made a mess so it’s time to do something about it now,” said Sharron Smith (37). She agreed that it was not an aversion to environmental issues that prevented participation in Earth Hour on a large-scale, but instead the failure to send a clear message to the public.

Making a difference

Encouragingly, questions concerning the future of events like Earth Hour were met with no resistance on Lincoln’s streets. In fact, there was a unanimous response from members of the public polled by The Lincolnite that more should be done to increase environmental awareness, as only with a communal effort real progress can be made.

Kate Bell, Community Environment Coordinator at the City of Lincoln Council, said: “The overwhelming message from Earth Hour is what else we can do as individuals and a community in Lincoln to reduce our demand for energy. We want to build a resilient community that becomes less dependant on imported energy.”

The City Council and the Transition Lincoln group are also organising a talk at the University of Lincoln in June (details to be confimed), where they invited a former Camden Town councillor to talk about his experience of working to address the challenges posed by climate change and how communities can make the transition to become more self-sufficient and cope with rising energy prices.

Photo: Shaina