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10 smart tips to live better – and help conserve Earth’s resources

Simple ‘green’ ideas – sleeping naked so bedrooms can stay warmer at night, using house plants to freshen indoor air and car-sharing – all make a difference  

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 April, 2018, 9:34am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 April, 2018, 5:38pm

On March 24, Hong Kong took part in the global movement Earth Hour for the 10th year – again inviting the city’s residents to turn out the lights for 60 minutes from 8.30pm to 9.30pm. 

It attracted the participation of more than 5,600 companies and buildings. 

Cities around the world go dark as Earth Hour global campaign kicks off

This time around, the initiative seemed all the more relevant as Hong Kong’s annual electricity consumption inches closer to 160,000 terajoules, reaching the 158,500 mark last year compared with the figure of 158,083 in 2016. 

That one hour was, of course, a symbolic event but, more importantly, it is a show of solidarity among people around the world concerned about the future of a planet in crisis. 

Earth Hour challenge: can Hongkongers reduce their energy usage by just 1 per cent for the coming year?

The WWF, which set up the landmark environmental movement, says that the Earth faces the dual challenge of climate change and plummeting biodiversity: individuals, businesses and governments must work together to find solutions to build a healthy, sustainable future for all.

Energy conservation is a long-term goal. 

Smartphone apps put green living practices in the palm of your hand

As we move forward, as part of this mission, here are 10 smart tips to help users conserve resources and live in a better way each day.

1. Car share 

Enjoy the fun of a luxury drive, with a minimal addition to your home’s carbon load. 

“Audi on demand” enables eligible driving enthusiasts to travel in style whenever and wherever they want, by booking a car of their choice from a wide range of Audi models for anything from an hour up to 28 days.

2. Shop mindfully

Minimising packaging eases pressure on landfills, and buying local, seasonal food helps support small business and farmers. 

From a personal well-being perspective, cultivating a sense of mindfulness while shopping is important as the activity is often done while people are on “autopilot”.

3. Buy a greener air conditioner

Inverter-type air conditioners are the most energy efficient, according to testing by the Hong Kong Consumer Council, and Panasonic claims its new Aero Series cuts energy use by up to 38 per cent on cooling mode, and 45 per cent on heating. 

Cold comfort: smart air conditioners take control of climate indoors

Its multiple intelligent sensors respond to human activity, sunlight and temperature – so the temperature is always optimally comfortable while saving energy. 

4. Reduce food waste 

Conserve energy on a broader scale by investing in an indoor food waste recycling composter such as Smart Cara. 

Simply load food waste into the removable basket, turn it on, and the system will dry and grind up to 1kg (2.2 pounds) of kitchen scraps, including chicken bones and seafood shells, into nutrient-rich fertiliser. 

You can reuse that to grow your own healthy salad greens at home.

5. Add greenery

House plants release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide to naturally freshen the indoor air. 

As they go about their energy-saving business, plants also make us feel better by reducing stress levels and boosting mood.

6. Lighten the load

Switching to fast-cycle washers and dryers can save time and energy on laundry chores, and free you up for what you really want to be doing. For instance, the Electrolux Perfect Steam front loader has a 4.6 star energy rating and, according to the company, it can save on average 40 gallons (180 litres) of water per week compared to a high-efficiency top load washer.

7. Check the energy ratings

Read the energy star labels when buying new appliances to choose one that is energy efficient. Then sit back and savour the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done something good for the environment. 

8. Watch your consumption

Among the new breed of in-home energy monitoring systems, Smappee identifies energy use and behaviour of major appliances – so you know which one is using how much power. 

Hi-tech ideas that help you save water – and the planet

A recent partnership with Nest means smart-home householders can manage the energy use of appliances by one time-saving app, significantly lowering their energy bills and environmental footprint.

9. Keep a healthy home

The experts assure us that indoor air quality is linked to energy efficiency, as clean air makes the home healthier, more comfortable, and helps electrical appliances to perform at their best. 

Connected devices, such as Fooboot and Awair, can keep the nasties at bay by monitoring the air quality in the home, and alerting you to take action when necessary. 

10. Sleep naked 

Eschewing bedtime attire is already an environmental saving, with further gains made because the room temperature can be a few degrees warmer. 

Additional benefits are that your body gets to “breathe”, which can lower the risk of skin diseases; it avoids overheating, which is linked to high cortisol levels (a chemical in the body which can lead to increased anxiety, food cravings and weight gain), and it makes you feel “free”.

How to read energy labels

As we are entering the warm and humid months of the year in Hong Kong , our dehumidifiers and air conditioners will start running again, and the electricity usage is expected to rise, usually peaking in the month of August. 

Since November 2009, most major domestic appliances sold in Hong Kong must be labelled according to their energy efficiency. But what do those labels mean? 

On a dehumidifier, the percentage of energy saving between a product with a Grade 1 rating (green label, signifying the most energy efficient), and that with a Grade 5 rating (red label, meaning the least efficient), is 42 per cent. For Grade 1 compared with Grade 3, it’s 24 per cent.

The annual energy consumption column shows how much can be saved over the course of the year. Below that, the energy factor measures how much water a particular appliance can remove from the air per kilowatt-hour (kWh): for example, 1.71 litres for a Grade 1 rated dehumidifier. 

Smart home appliances save time and optimise energy use

For optimal savings, the Hong Kong’s Electrical and Mechanical Services Department recommends choosing one with an automatic dehumidifying mode.

In Energy Label of Room Air Conditioner, it also follows the Grade 1-5 scale. 

There is an 11 per cent energy saving for a Grade 1 room air conditioner over a Grade 3 window-type room air conditioner; there is 25 per cent energy saving for a Grade 1 room air conditioner over a Grade 5 window-type room air conditioner. 

There is a 36 per cent energy saving for a Grade 1 room air conditioner over a Grade 3 split type room air conditioner; there is a 61 per cent energy saving for a Grade 1 room air conditioner over a Grade 5 split-type room air conditioner.

It is recommended to maintain an average room temperature of between 24 degrees Celsius (75.2 degrees Fahrenheit) and 26 degrees Celsius (78.8 degrees Fahrenheit) in summer months. 

The CLP website has a handy guide for comparing the differences between a Grade 1 and Grade 3 rating. 

The energy savings vary according to the appliances, from 15 per cent for a room cooler to 35 per cent for a fridge; 20 per cent for a clothes dryer and 25 per cent for a washing machine.