Saving energy – what for?

I cannot recall a time when I consciously decided to reduce my domestic energy use – and yet energy saving is something that matters a lot for my sense of identity. I think it was drummed into me as a child – my parents are impressively frugal with resources. And so from a young age I associated energy saving actions – such as switching the lights off when I leave the room, only filling up the kettle with as much water as I will use or switching off appliances at the socket – with my family’s frugal way of life. I don’t think this could be easily explained in terms of wanting to save on financial costs but that certainly was an element in it. It certainly wasn’t about doing our bit to tackle climate change.

I moved out of the family home to study at university, and this was in some ways a turning point for me. I went to study an undergraduate degree in physics, with a view to a career where I could use my expertise in the service of society – careers in medical physics or renewable sources of energy were the main two options I had in mind at the time. The latter career option was motivated by a desire to tackle climate change, but at this point I hadn’t made a connection to my own energy use. During my undergraduate years however, I became friends with similarly concerned students, and at this time there was much talk about the need to reduce our personal carbon footprints. I attended talks, helped to raise money for environmental charities and took a student position in my own college committee with responsibility for ‘ethical affairs’ – charity fundraising, reducing our college’s environmental impact and promoting ‘ethical consumerism’. Over these years I wouldn’t say my energy saving actions changed – I continued the same actions with the same dedication. But the actions gained new meanings for me – it’s no longer just about frugality, it’s also about helping to tackle climate change.

Michael, Edinburgh

Kettle

from a young age I associated energy saving actions – such as switching the lights off when I leave the room, only filling up the kettle with as much water as I will use or switching off appliances at the socket – with my family’s frugal way of life