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The Column icon The Column: Issue 42

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The Column is a monthly feature that explores the world of creativity and aesthetics.

How to Save the Planet
Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable

We're in trouble. Within the space of my lifetime the earth will travel from being a place of relative environmental stability to one of violent extremes. There is no doubt over this outcome. We cannot stop change, but we still have a small window of opportunity to affect the severity of this change. No matter who you are, you have the power within you to help save our planet. Here's how...

The fast answer to saving the planet

If you haven't time to read through this article and you want fast answers, here's what you need to do:

Use a moment once a day to act in a new way that saves energy.

A modest action will do, like saying no when a plastic bag is offered to you the next time you go shopping, or switching off a light bulb when you leave a room in the dark evenings with no plans to return in the near future.

Small actions make a difference

It is easy to forget how the accumulation of small actions can deliver a significant impact. If every day you do one small thing to save energy, your effort (which might at first sight seem of such little benefit as to appear of little or no worth) will make a difference. It's about scale and influence.

Here are two simple example of how small actions can have a big effect: if everyone only boiled the water they needed to make a cup of coffee or tea instead of filling the kettle every time, the UK would save enough electricity in a year to run more than three quarters of the street lighting in the country.

The British public walks the equivalent to the moon and back twice every year just to change light bulbs. Energy saving light bulbs use electronics that enable you to produce a highly efficient and compact light using a fraction of the energy. If you haven't got them in every room by now, get one each month until the older ones are all replaced. Don't wait until the old ones run out, it's a false ecomomy and does no good.

Heating and lighting are the big shakers and movers of energy consumption, and these are the two areas we need to look to as we make our small moves.

Good for you, good for business

Seeking solutions that are mindful of energy usage relates as much to the process of creativity, as to the development and delivery of products. If you work in an office, search for opportunities where energy can be saved. By taking the initiative and making suggestions, you will not only be contributing to reducing energy wastage, you'll also be viewed of as someone with ideas, initiative, and a sense of shared responsibility. Saving energy can have positive career advantages...

If you're the boss, establish a culture of mindful energy usage. This won't only save your business money, but also encourage those working with you to think carefully about their actions - something you always wish to nurture within your team. If someone complains of a draft in their workspace, think of this as an opportunity rather than a problem. Stopping the draft will make your team more comfortable, cut your heating costs, and most importantly, positively influence others in their energy usage.

A fast first step

You can make a start right now by changing your settings on your computer to be more efficient. It's a myth that it takes more energy to start a computer than to keep it running, and don't be fooled by the mistaken argument that it's not a good idea to turn computers off during the night and on weekends because it puts extra stress on them.

In Windows click the "Start" button on the lower left, then the "Control Panel" link. If you're viewing preferences use the Category view click the "Performance and Maintenance" link. Once the Control Panel opens click the "Power Options" link. Now you'll see a window that allows you to save energy in a variety of ways.

You'll be able to easily turn you monitor off after 15 minutes of no activity. As soon as you move your mouse or keyboard the monitor will come back on. You'll also be able to select when your computer goes on Standby and when it Hibernates. Hibernation is a very good way of saving energy as compared with leaving your computer running for hours when you're not there. Windows will store whatever is usually held by your RAM memory onto your hard drive before shutting down. When your computer comes out of hibernation, your programs, files, and settings will be shown in their previous state as if you'd never gone away. Some computers also have "Away Mode" which can save energy by muting your display and audio hardware. For Mac users there are similar power saving options that you'll find in the Energy Saver preferences. If there are are many computers at your home or office, make sure every one runs using energy efficient settings.

Do good, be well

My message in this column is simple: perform one small action each day that reduces your energy consumption. Take this as an opportunity to flex your creative muscles. Use your imagination to find more efficient solutions to your energy needs. You don't need to sit down and work out the maths or enter into earnest debate, simply click the standby switch or take a walk over using the lift.

As we do good we make ourselves feel better, and that makes us healthier and happier. Turn the off switch on your TV rather than leaving it on standby, and a neuron in your brain will fire. That neuron trips a chemical change, a positive feeling that will be so small that you may not be aware of it. Yet over time you will notice how you feel better, just for doing the right thing. You will release a swathe of unseen bodily chemicals that stimulate and strengthen the immune system. You will be a little more content, and doing good will be to blame...


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Authors background
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author. Mike is also the Creative Director of 2BrightSparks, a software company.

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