Turn off the lights for an hour – and then?

To start with, I want to say that I have a history of suggesting weird ideas.  It takes ten years or more, but a lot of them turn up in society, when someone else has the idea and the contacts to get it going.

Thirty years ago I was saying that fines should be proportional to disposable income, as fifty dollars for someone on $237/week total ($237 in 2011, that is,  the income for those on single-person unemployment benefits in Australia)  is much worse than it is for someone on a telephone-number income – and was told it was impossible, really.  A few years later Finland started doing that – how long before we catch up?

Twenty years ago I was saying that the Federal government should put aside some actual money each year to invest for the age pensions of the current unemployed and disability pensioners (the baby-boom bump, who won’t have as many young workers to support the payments as they age) and for other far-future commitments easily foreseen – and was metaphorically patted on the head and told that it was not practical.  A few years later they started the “Future Fund”.

Fifteen years ago I tried to get people interested in having an Australia-wide “turn out the lights” hour, when we could all go out, look at the stars as a Nation, and maybe even have kids in cities see the Milky Way.  I was told that it couldn’t be done, that councils would not be able to cut lighting to the  minimum for safety.  Well, they couldn’t, could they …. not without Green pressure.

I’ll skip the umpteen others.

Well, here’s my next campaign, and I know it’s really not original in the basics – for example http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4791478.stm in 2006.  However, the superstructure is significantly different.

The Trigger

A class of teaching students was told to be professional in their appearance – to learn to iron their clothes.  They were also told to be models of behaviour for their students, including environmental awareness.

Does anyone else see a conflict here?

The thought

I think that the willingness of the Australian people to do the symbolic non-electric hour could well be harnessed to make the symbolic choice to wear clothes as they are once dried: unironed.

More details

Running the iron for the time needed for current standards of appearance uses less power than one might think (a 1600 W iron was reported on http://www.willsmith.org/climatechange/domestic.html#Kitchen to use about 250W/hour, as it does not heat continuously) , but it still adds up.   Add to this the time it takes from energy-saving labour-intensive options (like having a veggie garden) and the effect is greater.  Many people haven’t the time for it, and pay the travel costs and processing costs of commercial cleaning to get the smooth finish and still have time to sleep.

For many materials, careful hanging while damp gives a reasonable finish, but some workplaces feel that is not good enough.  Some all-natural materials are not naturally really smooth after washing, and currently have to be ironed for a reasonable (by current standards) appearance – even requiring some starch-equivalent to keep that quality.  Strangely, some materials which are naturally smooth are processed to have a crinkled or crushed appearance which can also be “Professional” (I never said that custom has to be logical…)

The Campaign: Wash and Wear

So, spread the word: any time the need to cut power use, or the desirability of home-grown food, or standards of dress are mentioned  …  Put in a plug for having materials in the washed-but-not-ironed state as The Standard for Professional Appearance.  Start with the school uniform and teacher dress requirements, and publicise it as an Environmentally Responsible School.

And in fifteen years I can say I said so

– and this time, I’ll have www-proof.


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