Crossing the Great Energy Race Finish Line #GERace

It’s been an eye-opening four weeks in the Observer’s Ethical Awards Great Energy Race.  Thank you B&Q for sponsoring this important new award category!

It has been so amazing to see how our household can reduce our energy demands.  Our energy use was never particularly high, as our household is already pretty environmentally savoy.  But we did manage to steadily reduce our electricity demands steadily over the race from 50 kilowatt hours per week to 38 kilowatt hours per week (and this last week saw workmen installing a new boiler, so extra lights and power tools were plugged in!).  Still, that’s just over a 25% reduction in our electricity usage!  Yippee!!!

The average UK household uses 63 kilowatt hours per week, so I’ve gotta say that I’m rather proud of both our starting and finishing points.  FYI, the average American household uses a whopping 208 kilowatt hours per week!  Yuck!!!

I wonder how much of this energy conciousness has been and will be retained by my children, aged seven and two.  While I enjoy saving money as much as the next person, the main reason for the last month’s endeavours is my children.  I love them more than I ever knew was possible, and I want them to be able to say that the Great Barrier Reef is alive and thriving and not lost to ocean acidification.  I want them to live in a peaceful world, and not one ravaged by wars as mass migrations due to sea level rise and limited resources inflame international tensions.  I want my children to say that they were handed a planet that was in better shape than the one their parents inherited.   I want my grandchildren to think upon my generation and say “thank you” for tightening  belts and loosening thinking caps to solve Earth’s current energy crisis.  I hope that my children will retain my values for conservation.  They will need these values in years to come!

This is why I would very very much like to see the Great Energy Race prize donated to a school.  I’ve already seen that my own energy use is pretty small compared to most, so a renewable energy measure would have a much larger impact to the planet if installed on a larger consumer of energy, like a primary school with hundreds of children.  Also, renewable energy needs to be thought of as the standard and not some unattainable luxury that only wealthy conservationists can afford.  So, if you have read through to this and fancy voting to see the £10k prize given to school children, then please take a minute to vote for me here.  (scroll down to the bottom on the right hand side)

And perhaps this will inspire a few of my fellow competitors to likewise consider donating the prize to a larger consumer of energy in their communities too if they win!!

Lots of lessons have been learned in the duration of this race, and since I’m all about top tips, I’ve made one final Top Tips list for this #GERace blog entry.  Here are my top ten tips to reduce energy consumption for free.  Actually all of these tips will save you money, so it’s like you’re making money!

Robin’s Top 10 Tips – Free!

  1. Turn down your thermostat in winter (and up in Summer for you folks in glorious warm climates).  Putting on more clothes in the winter and less in the summer is a natural thing, so just learn to live the climate that you live in.
  2. Turn off the lights.  Make a habit of going around the house and turning off lights that are left on in rooms.  Eventually even kids can learn to turn off the lights when they leave a room.
  3. Seek and destroy hidden suckers of electricity – standby and chargers!  Go around and see what you have plugged into those dusty power strips under beds and behind desks.  If you don’t use things like computers, chargers, microwaves and TV’s regularly, then just unplug them when not in use.
  4. Open up your curtains in the morning, and close them at night.  Curtains add quite a bit of insulation, so if you close them when it’s dark and you’ll limit heat loss and peeping Toms.  Open them when it’s light, and you won’t need light bulbs and natural solar heat will warm the room.
  5. Wash your clothes in colder water.  If you don’t think it’ll clean your clothes well, then give it a trail for a month and see.  If you reduce the temperature to 30C you will save quite a bit of energy and your clothes shouldn’t suffer.  Actually the hot water will make them fade faster and you’re more likely to ruin wool items that find themselves in the wash on accident.
  6. Don’t tumble dry clothes.  If you do own a tumble dyer (booo hisss) then try to use it less and less.  If I can dry all of my clothes without a dryer, while living in cold and rainy Scotland, then everyone can do it!  Plus laundry dried outside on a line is just nicer!
  7. Only boil as much water as you need.  If you want a cup of coffee, then there’s no need to boil a whole pot-full of water.  If you want hot beverages all day long, you can consider using a thermos-type flask to keep your drinks hot.  Good ones will keep contents hot for the whole day.
  8. Reduce or end your food waste.  You may be able to save lots of money here, if you make a list of what you need before you go shopping, regularly move fridge contents from the backs of shelves to the front and freeze leftovers for another day.  Also, if you grow your own produce, you’ll be a whole lot less likely to waste it!  Plant a seed today!
  9. Think before you buy things that plug-in.  The best way to reduce electricity use is to not buy things that need it in the first place.  Marketers try to sell us all kinds of stuff that we don’t actually need – like warming lotion dispensers, digital image photo frames, electric milk frothers and “mood” lighting. But really do you need lights to give you “mood” and does your lotion really need to be heated prior to rubbing it into your skin?  I think you know the answer, so try not to give into the impulse to buy new “stuff.”
  10. Use less hot water.  This can be done by taking shorter showers, periodically turning off the water when you are lathering up or massaging conditioner into hair and by taking slightly less hot showers.  Long hot showers is a weakness of mine, but I do find it nice to have more time in the morning with a shorter shower!




2 thoughts on “Crossing the Great Energy Race Finish Line #GERace

    • They may be purely American… There’s a great video called Kilowatt Ours ( that shows one guy’s energy conservation efforts at home. Not too unlike our GERace efforts! But film has footage of some pre-teen using one of these monstrous devices. It’s definitely a shaking head sort of moment that I will never forget – for all the wrong reasons!

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