Last Saturday it was Earth Hour, the World Wildlife Fund’s annual campaign that asks people to ‘switch off’ for an hour to show their support for protecting the planet.
It has never been more timely. With millions of us practicing social distancing and self-isolation our digital activities have increased exponentially. Streaming services such as Netflix have had to take measures to reduce the bandwidth their services use to keep us connected. The call to ‘switch off’ for an hour now applies to more than just lights.
A recent BBC documentary, Dirty Streaming found that the number one hit single Despacito had over five billion streams online – using as much energy as five African countries in an entire year.
Energy consumption globally is rising. Driven by digitisation and rising demand from developing countries. Over a billion people currently do not have access to energy, depriving them of effective health services, limiting the food supply chain, impacting education and productivity.
Meet the energy demands of another billion people, whilst simultaneously reducing global emissions, is a challenge. ‘Switching off’ for an hour this Saturday is a great, symbolic gesture, but it’s clearly not a practical solution to protecting our planet long term. To ensure we all have a long and sustainable future, we need to eradicate waste in all its forms. Plastic waste, food waste and textile waste are all high in the public consciousness.
There are numerous campaigns, programmes and schemes to tackle and reduce these types of waste. From legislation to ban single use plastic, to campaigns to eliminate plastic straws, to recycling programmes to ‘shwopping’ unwanted clothes. However, there is one form of waste that continues to be overlooked and under reported – energy waste.
Energy is responsible for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Shockingly, more energy is wasted around the globe than is actually consumed. So, if you really want to show your support for the planet, don’t just ‘switch off’ for an hour this Saturday, make a commitment to save energy. Whether that’s turning off lights, unplugging chargers or watching programmes in standard definition instead of HD. Or investing in better insulation, smart energy saving devices, or building management systems. Eradicating waste in all its forms is critical to protect the planet.
This story was originally published on Forbes.