Earth Hour Activities For Frugal Family Night

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?


  1. I think Earth Hour is a feel good event for those people who are participating and the overall impact of the efforts are minimal. We all need to realize that we need to do more than just turn off our lights for one hour a year in order to really have an impact. With that said, I’ll be doing my part. I might as well try to go the entire day without using any electricity. It shouldn’t be too bad since I won’t be home for much of the time.

    I’m actually glad that Earth Hour is getting some recognition as it is important that we raise awareness about the situation our planet is facing. Each of us is only one person and our efforts may seem in vain, but individuals make up communities and communities make up the world. Do what you can when you can, and stop by my blog to read my article about ways you can Go Green While Saving Some Green.

  2. Of all the reasons you list above to conserve energy and other natural resources, the one that resonates with me most strongly is that it is “good for our society”.

    Yes, climate change is going to be a serious ecological problem for us, and yes, we are having trouble getting energy, and yes, our economy is in trouble…but even if we had none of these concerns, it would trouble me to live in a society that threw away energy (or food or anything else of value) like it was worthless, that wasted it.

    When we get in a wasteful frame of mind about anything, I feel it tends to influence our thinking in other areas, whether they be the dollars you make or your days on this earth. And this is a mindset I wish desperately to avoid.

  3. Fascinating idea. I really hadn’t heard of this before. I mean I had heard of people making the best of no power after a storm or something, but not intentionally. We are definitely going to try this at our house this weekend.

  4. Last year I spent some time in Ethiopia and the power went out every few of days for the whole day (around 8:30 AM to 8:30 PM). Not just in little towns but even in the capital.

    As an experiment I did this one weekend for the whole day here at home and it wasn’t fun. There really is very little to do when the power out as far as entertainment (e.g. internet, music, movies, TV’s), especially if you are solo, so it gets boring very quickly. Plus all my beer got warm. 🙂 It was a good experience though, probably not one I’d willingly repeat.

  5. Without all the energetically charged distractions, I can actually sit and meditate which is REALLY hard for me.
    FD I heard yesterday the average adult spends 8.5 hours in front of a “screen” of some kind-computer monitor, tv, mobile phone-

  6. Does turning of things during Earth Hour make me feel better as a human being? Am I going to change my behavior long term? Honestly, no, I’m not – and neither are most people. You’ll turn on your TV’s and computers and check out what you missed in that dark hour. Earth Hour is a touchy feely attempt at addressing real issues. How about an Earth Weekend? Minimize energy use for a much longer period of time to show some impact – not just 60 minutes.

  7. Funny that Frugal Dad takes the emotional side of this issue. To feel better you burned candles that cost you more money in candles and matches than a Kwh of energy from the power company.

    The approximate cost of a Kwh for a residence is 11 cents.

    Now take that small emotional choice, and give it to the governments of the world. We have billions of dollars wasted on this “problem.”

    Until humans are more of a contributing factor than cyclical solar weather (sunspots, solar flares, etc), volcanic eruptions, and cow flatulence, I will spend my 11 cents and snub my nose to all the people lighting up for an hour in reverence to the Church of Emotion.

  8. I will do this when the pompous politicitions and liberal elite follow this. Is all business going to shut down for one hour? NO! This is just more feel good stupid stuff that we waste time on. If you want to do this, go right ahead. Don’t drag me down to this level.Take your kid’s to Cracker Barrel and talk to them. Go for a walk with them or take them to the park.

  9. We have too many “Power’s Out” hours/days/a week here in the winter to do this just for the fun of it 🙂 We appreciate our electricity very very much and are very used to doing without it when the need arises, as it does here so very very often!

    But at the same time, the grandkids know they will be at Grammi’s when the power is out for long, because I have the flat topped woodstove to cook on – so we can have heat, hot water for cleaning the grandkids up, and a cooking surface for stews, omelets, and mostly their favorite “power’s out” beverage – hot cocoa on the woodstove 🙂 And if it’s out long, there will be sleeping bags all over my floors, and board and card games played! And family stories told.