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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 April 2006, 10:22 GMT 11:22 UK
Healthy competition
Bright ideas from Magazine readers

There must be a national effort to bring about a "green revolution", says the government. But what simple things can we all do to save the Earth?

Green light graphic
Green Light is a series of bright ideas from Magazine readers to help save the world
The Magazine took this challenge to its readers, and we are publishing a selection of the best ideas and what the experts think of them. Here are two suggestions which rely on nothing more than the power of persuasion.

Regional competition
Peter Brown of London proposes this innovation:

    I was in New Zealand in 2001 when they had a highly effective energy saving drive. Their strategy was simple - they put on regular adverts giving advice on how to save energy and then, twice a week, the news would report on how each region had done. This effectively turned energy-saving into a competition between the different regions - if one region fell behind, it was shamed into doing better. In addition, everyone was able to see the positive effect that their efforts were having. People were happy to put in the effort to both help the environment and the country as a whole to save energy.

When it comes to simple ways to save energy, John Gregory of Camberley offers an insight:

    A colleague and I were tasked with reducing energy use in Egton House, then the home of Radio 1. We instigated a poster campaign to persuade everyone to turn off lights, computers, printers and copiers when not in use and particularly overnight. The result was an overall reduction in energy use of 25%, maintained for the month the project ran. After the end of the project, the saving gradually reduced but, to our surprise, stayed steady at 10% for at least a year. People become used to switching off, even when it offers no financial incentive.
Expert verdict

Editor in chief of Green Futures magazine, Martin Wright, likes the idea of a regional competition but adds a few caveats.

"The first is a practical concern - you can buy electricity from any one of a number of companies in this country and you'd have to get them all to agree to carry the cost of making data available - or for this to be carried by government.

"Competition would work for some people, but for others it could rather smack of 'nanny knows best'."

He says the best way to encourage people to save energy is to make it attractive to them - it can save them money (as well as the planet) and perhaps make them more comfortable.

"If someone's sitting in a draughty room, they typically turn the heating up - and end up sitting in a draught in an over-heated room. Whereas if their house was insulated properly, they could turn the heating down a notch."

Dr Garry Felgate, of the Carbon Trust, which advises businesses on cutting carbon emissions, says that "good housekeeping" can cut a company's energy bill.

"For example, one in four workers doesn't switch off the lights in a room that is not being used, but nearly all do when they're at home; if they were encouraged to behave at work as they do at home, businesses could reduce lighting bills by 19% a year."

One company which has successfuly curbed energy use is Land Securities, he says. At one of the buildings it manages, posters detail ways to save power and a newsletter shows latest levels of energy useage. While not a competition, staff can see the difference they make.

"As a result of this campaign energy usage gradually fell, despite the fact the business was using more equipment."

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