Photo courtesy of plindberg
Tonight at 8:30pm (local time) Earth Hour organizers have asked us to turn off our lights for one hour, as a vote for our planet against global warming. Despite how you feel about the politically-charged issue of global warming, I am convinced energy conservation is a good thing for our planet, our society, and our personal economies. Earth Hour also provides an excellent opportunity for families to enjoy one of my favorite frugal ideas.
Flipping off the light switch is nothing new to our family. Last year I wrote about the “Frugal Family Fun Nights” we often celebrate on the weekends. Over the last couple years we have enjoyed backyard campfires, luaus, movie nights, and my personal favorite, “Power’s Out Night.”
When the lights go out we turn to old-fashioned forms of entertainment (and lighting). We light a few candles and gather around a table to enjoy a game of scrabble, or play cards, or just sit around and tell stories. This year the kids have sleeping bags and we’ll probably have a little camp-out in the living room, complete with a battery operated lantern and cold cereal for dinner. The kids always enjoy the idea of “roughing it,” without having to fight the bugs, the cold and a hard spot of ground in the woods.
Instead of making this a one-time event, consider adding this to your own weekend routine. Maybe not “Power’s Out” every weekend, but once a month or so it’s a good reminder to kids that we can survive without the creature comforts we’ve grown to expect – television, computers, air conditioning. Here are a few ideas for ways to spend tonight as a family, in the dark:
Five Family-Friendly Activities For Earth Hour
1. Open the windows in warm climates and turn off the air conditioner. A house without circulating air gets stuffy pretty quickly, so if you live in a warmer climate, consider opening up the windows for a fresh breeze. Don’t forget to close and lock them before bedtime.
2. Play outside. In the eastern time zone it is close to dark at 8:30pm, but not quite. Enjoy the last few minutes of daylight tonight by doing some of the same things you used to do as a kid. Look for fireflies, play some nighttime basketball with a glow-in-the-dark ball, or maybe a little star-grazing.
3. Go for a walk around the neighborhood. I suspect many neighbors will spend at least part of Earth Hour outside on their porches, or strolling the neighborhood. This might be a great time to meet other families living nearby since we are normally cooped up inside our homes playing Guitar Hero or watching television. Wear bright colors and a grab a flashlight to make things a little safer.
4. Gather in the family room and tell stories. One of the fondest memories I have from my childhood was siting around a campsite with my grandfather listening to stories about his childhood, growing up in the Depression, etc. He is a great story-teller, and without the distraction of television and games, he had a captive audience eager to here them. Gather around your family room, or out on the back porch, and tell the kids how you and your spouse met, or relive a funny memory from a family vacation.
5. Work in a talk about conserving energy. Remember the reason for “Power’s Out” fun nights, and Earth Hour – you are sacrificing an hour or two of energy to reduce both the amount of energy you consume, and to reduce your utility bill. Explain to kids that you have to pay for the power to turn on lights, computers, televisions, hot water heaters for showers, etc. To most kids this is a completely abstract idea – they flip the switch and expect there to be light, not realizing that someone is charging them for that bit of energy all along.
What are your plans for Earth Hour?