Could you give up electricity for an hour every day during Lent?

Electricity use in the UK is around 20% higher than the global average.[1]  UK Home energy use makes up approximately a quarter of the country’s total CO2 emissions.[2] The average household owns 41 electric appliances, with some owning up to 85![3]

Kitchen and bathroom appliances make up the most energy consuming appliances in our households, closely followed by entertainment appliances, such as TVs.[4] Around one fifth of the average home’s electricity bill is made up of lighting, and 10% of the homes electricity bill is made up of items on standby.[5]

The majority of energy created to create this electricity comes from sources which contribute to the mass pollution of our climate. In 2017, it was estimated only 29% of UK energy production came from renewable sources.[6]  This was topped up by a 41% use of gas sources, and 13.5% use of coal. These energy sources contribute to the greenhouse gasses released into our environment, and whilst the use of coal for electricity generation has fallen in the last 5 years, burning fossil fuels is still the biggest source of CO2 emissions in the UK.[7]

22% of the average person’s carbon footprint is made up of domestic energy use.[8] We depend on electricity for almost everything we do, yet we don’t often think about the impact this has on our planet.

So, what changes can you make?

Well, it’s simple – turn off all your electrical appliances and lights for an hour every day during Lent. Yes, that means phones, TVs, heating, WiFi(!). We’ll let fridges and freezers be an exception!

In advance of the hour every day, this will mean heading round your house and turning off all your appliances at their main switches. For some appliances, this will even mean unplugging them from the wall. Appliances such as WiFi boxes and TVs consume electricity when plugged in, even if the switch is off at the wall!

There are different ways to measure the electricity usage of your different appliances, to find out the effect turning them off will have. You can check in the usage manuals of different products, TVs for example. You can also use a wattage meter, a little gadget design to measure energy consumption. Perhaps you could join with friends or church members to buy a wattage meter, and measure the energy impact of your home.

Switching off might not naturally fit into our daily patterns. So, in advance, take some time to think about when you might fit an electricity free hour into your day. Perhaps it could be first thing in the morning, as you prepare for the day. Or perhaps it could be a break in the middle, as you choose to take some time out. It could even be in the evening, as you commit to winding down for the day ‘electricity free’.

This isn’t just about giving up your electricity for an hour, but about freeing up some of your day from your usual habits. How could you use your free time? Perhaps you could finish that book you’ve taken ages to read, learn a new skill, write to friends or spend time in prayer. Maybe it will even be a chance to get the house tidy!

What difference will this really make?

Contrary to some of the other commitments we are inviting the Living Lent community to make, giving up electricity for an hour every day isn’t so much about significantly changing your carbon footprint, in the immediate sense. Instead, making this commitment is about focussing our attention on how we use electricity, especially in our homes, and how we might consume electricity more efficiently.

Where do we depend on electricity?
Where might we be using energy wastefully, or indulgently?
Are there appliances we use automatically, when there might be an electricity free alternative?

It might be that in the time following Lent, an hour free of electricity every day isn’t a sustainable practice to continue daily. But by dramatically altering our lifestyles for 40 days, we are taking up an opportunity to break out of habits which impact our climate significantly.

Switching off for an hour each day also gives us a regular time to reflect on God’s creation, and our relationship to it. We are offered the chance to reflect on our dependence on practices that have harmful consequences on our planet.

This is also a symbolic action, as we share our commitment to take action in this and other areas of our lives. It is a chance to share with those around you that we as a community, and as individuals, are committed to making change for the climate.

Want to find out more? Explore the articles and websites below.

How much electricity does a home use?

The ‘Powering the Nation’ Report.

How much electricity am I using?

Find out where your energy supply comes from.

The Climate Change Challenge for Energy.

Reducing carbon emissions in the UK.

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