As the old Chinese proverb says, one generation plants a tree, and another sits in its shade. For me, this speaks straight to the heart of why many of us are guilty of not being as energy-aware as the government tells us we should be; not being able to see a tangible result right away simply doesn’t appeal in a world of instant messaging and next-day delivery.
Climate change, global warming, the greenhouse effect – call it what you like. Scientists the world over are telling us that the earth is heating up at an unprecedented rate thanks to man-made CO2 emissions. They tell us that, to stop all the ice melting, the seas rising and crazy weather patterns – plus potentially devastating effects on the human race – we must lower the energy we use at a national, local and personal level. They tell us to think of our children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren; all those future generations who’d like to sit in the shade of a tree in the middle of the lush, English countryside rather than a beach umbrella in the middle of the Oxfordshire desert!
This all sounds like something from an apocalyptic film and some sceptics disagree with the whole idea of man-made climate change. But there are other reasons for using less energy. I personally think it makes for happier living. I have been a recycler for nine years, conscious about not leaving things switched on for eight, and as strict as an army general with household energy use for about three. My lights are efficient. My TV, boiler and washing machine are all Energy Saving Trust Recommended, and I have energy-saving plugs fitted to the power points.
I have been happily saving money on my energy bills as a consequence. But no one is perfect: my guilty pleasure is spending that money I’ve saved off my bills on travelling.
Like many Londoners I don’t own a car – we’re lucky to live in a city with a sophisticated public transport system (even if I did have to wait a WHOLE 10 minutes for a tube earlier) – but I do take at least two trips a year that involve flying. This pleasure does nothing good for my carbon footprint, but if I reason that if I were bad at home that would be even worse. Every little helps – and I suppose that’s the secret that everyone ignores. Saving energy doesn’t have to be a lifestyle overhaul. It is easy to make sure the latest product you buy for your home is the most energy-efficient one available, and to switch it off when you’re not using it.
At Energy Saving Trust Recommended we’re working with over 300 companies to reduce the carbon emissions from UK homes by developing and endorsing products that use less energy. Not only might low-energy products help to save us from future irrational weather, complete with the flooding, snow drifts and water shortages that come with it – they might give us an immediate reward in the form of smaller energy bills, even when energy prices seem to go up every year. In fact, by using low-energy products, you might even be planting that tree for your grandchildren!