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Earth HourEarth Hour is fast approaching – Saturday 28 March 2015.

You know the one where we’re all encouraged to turn off our lights for an hour on a Saturday night and consider power consumption on a global scale and more broadly our own environmental impact. Yeah, that one.

While Earth Hour gets a lot of criticism (mainly for being slactivism) I wholeheartedly support the movement. Not because of the perceived reduced power consumption for 60mins/24 hours, because really, it’s not about that.
It’s a pretty powerful (I assure you, pun intended!) planet-wide platform that has the potential to get people thinking and talking about their environmental impact in a positive and non-challenging way.

 

So, why should you be vampire hunting next Saturday, or anytime?

Vampire power

Vampire by Alvaro Tapia | http://bit.ly/1Ey6ebv | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Well, strictly speaking you’re looking for power vampires.

These vamps masquerade in the form of your innocent-enough looking electronic devices, sucking your electrical blood quietly – even in broad daylight and especially at night. They’re doing it right now. They do it while you’re asleep, at work, even when you’re on holiday. They’re costing you money, and creating an albeit small, but unnecessary load on the nation’s electricity supply (and I don’t know whether you’ve noticed but we’ve had a significant drought this summer and a fair whack of our national electricity supply comes from hydropower schemes #justathought).

 

 

What’s the issue exactly?

A fair amount of the items you have plugged in right now don’t actually require a continuous supply of power. Think: printers, phone chargers, laptop chargers, toasters, microwaves, media players, washing machines etc etc.
You will have heard of standby power. Most of the aforementioned devices utilise standby power. The device is literally holding power ‘just in case’ you turn it on to use. With some devices this is undeniably useful. Others it’s definitely unnecessary.
Take your printer for instance, if on at the wall, it will likely be in standby mode waiting patiently for a signal to be sent to it for printing today, tomorrow or someday. Meanwhile it’s slowly sucking your blood (sorry, power) and draining your wallet slowly but surely.

 

So, perhaps after you’ve turned your lights back on this Saturday night (or heck, why wait for Saturday?) why not do a quick whip around the house to see what reasonably can/should be unplugged (I’m feeling slightly guilty at the thought of at least my cellphone and laptop charger being unnecessarily plugged in right now… back in a sec!). And setup a bit of a system to ensure you actively and regularly turn these unnecessary items off at the wall.

 

There are lots of lifehacks to eliminate power vampires from your life. Here’s just a few

  1. The ole manual check. Literally flicking switches and pulling power cords.
    Let’s face it. This is time consuming and probably not how you want to spend your spare time. But maybe you can pick two or three things that are easy/could be draining a bit of power (think: TV/anything with a standby light/your cellphone charger) and choose to care about unplugging them when you can, and certainly when you’re heading away on holiday.
  2. #TheresAnAppForThat: Start to build a habit around vampire hunting and eradication. Set a reminder on your phone to start the habit off, or if you’re like me and need a little more active encouragement (and measurability) check out Coach.me (and countless other apps) where you can setup daily/weekly reminders for good habits.
  3. Enlist the best! If you’ve got kids that are old enough to know how to deal with power points safely, get them involved, they’ll be the best vampire hunters ever! And you know they’ll keep you honest!
  4. And possibly the ultimate hack for the modern lifestyle: a smart powerbank.
    http://www.powerwise.co.nz/products/easy-off-auto-power-board.html

    http://www.powerwise.co.nz/products/easy-off-auto-power-board.html

    Just like your existing powerbank, but with better vampire slaying features.
    I was pleasantly surprised to see there are quite a few on the (NZ) market with varying degrees of awesome. Standard features tend to include a socket or two that are always on (for items you don’t want to turn off, think: fridge, home phone etc) mixed with sockets that will turn off with the flick of one switch, or even better with a remote control on the fancypants versions. They’re generally not that much more expensive than your average good quality surge protector powerbank at around the $30-$40 mark. I’ve read a few reviews that claim to save you the cost of the powerbank in the first year of use.
    Check out Jaycar, Powerwise or PB Tech and I’m sure they’re sold in countless other places too.

  5. When buying new hardware keep an eye out for energy efficient or smart devices that keep their blood-sucking to a minimum.

 

So, by all means, do turn your lights off this Earth Hour, while you’re candle-side ask yourself/your family/your friends what we can each do to minimise our environmental impacts. The first step is asking the questions, the second is ongoing action!

This Earth Hour I’ll be celebrating with my brother and his new wife at their wedding! #cantwait
While I can’t dictate what the lighting will be on this special occasion (don’t worry, candles have been suggested!) I will be offsetting the emissions from our 1300 klm round car trip by supporting the Million Metres Stream Project. Because it all counts.

Happy Earth Hour everyone!

I’m always keen to hear how others minimise their power consumption, so keep the conversation going by posting below!

 

It’s brunch o’clock on Sunday. If you’re anything like me the decision of where to go for decent nosh can be crippling at the best of times (early morning decision making is not a strength in this household). Or maybe you’re visiting a new city and you haven’t the foggiest idea of where to turn for good food.

The idea of ‘good food’ is of course relative to the person, the situation and perhaps whether you’re suffering from the ‘Sunday-morning-flu’. These days ‘good food’ can mean more than just who in town has the best hollandaise on their eggs benedict.

 A delicious and entirely local dinner from Roots Restaurant, Lyttleton
Good food can be much broader and depending on what you value it can encompass such things as ethically sourced ingredients; free-range and organic options; food that is prepared in a sustainable environment, where waste is minimised and managed smartly; perhaps has sustainably caught seafood on the menu; and ideally uses fantastic in-season, local ingredients.

 

Up until recently it has been incredibly difficult to judge which businesses do well at this stuff. Enter the good folk at Conscious Consumers NZ. These guys and gals have come up with an accreditation scheme to help consumers make more sustainable and ethical choices in the hospitality sector. One of the best things about this system is that it is incredibly easy to use and is *free* for consumers to use. Businesses that sign up and pay the annual fee are are awarded any mix of up to 12 ‘badges’ in areas they can prove they perform in. Ultimately the scheme functions via a *free* app where you can check out who locally (limited cities in NZ currently as they build the brand) is operating within 12 areas of sustainability. These badges fit neatly within three categories,  Smart waste, ethical products and community. This way you can identify the values that you most closely align with, be it organic, eco-packaging or sustainable seafood.

   
 Local  Generosity
     
 BYO containers  Recycling  Eco-packaging  Composting  Eco-cleaners
         
Free range Fair trade Sustainable Seafood Vegetarian/Vegan Organic

Businesses are reviewed annually to ensure they still fit the criteria of the badges they hold. Businesses pay an annual fee to be profiled on the Conscious Consumer website as part of the package. If you’re interested in the nuts and bolts of the accreditation process you can check this out.

Fancy a deal?

On the app you can set your preferences of cities and favourite businesses. From time to time businesses offer rewards or deals to customers that use the app.

Sometimes you’ll see a sign in a shop, usually at the counter with a QR code on it advertising either their business and/or their current deal. 

 

Bravo

This is a great, if not basic, way to identify businesses that share the same values as you and support them with your custom. The app is free and I recommend you give it a whirl. It’s not hugely scientific, but it is evidence based. Personally I think this is a great start in the right direction and primarily exists with the well-meaning consumer (that’s you) in mind.

Conscious Consumer app does the hard work for you!

 

Feel good factor

It’s great to see that these like-minded businesses can measure their positive impacts.

Check out these stats (correct at time of publishing, otherwise see up-to-date stats here)

Each year our businesses spend $1,002,000 on organic food and beverages.

Each year our businesses spend $9,538,100 on local food and beverages.

Each year our businesses save 1,311,300 containers potentially going to landfill.

Each year our businesses help 21,200 animals avoid factory-style farming.

Why not download the app now? It’s available on both apple and android platforms from here

Shake and fold

BY 10 January 2015 Great Ideas

One little innocuous thing we do everyday can have a massive positive impact and it won’t cost you a cent.

All it takes is four minutes of your time now to share in this great, simple idea.