Using and Losing my Marbles

Posted by in February's Magazine

Where attention goes energy flows” says the nice lady who is here to do a Home energy report for me. It’s a neat rhyme but it takes me a moment to get the gist of what it means: that if we are not mindful about how we use energy we can easily waste it. We are sitting in my living room by a Christmas tree that is lit up, well…like a Christmas tree. I glance at it guiltily.
“I suppose the Christmas tree is on” I say.

“But it’s very much in use” nice lady smiles, and I smile too, delighted by the idea of its being in use because we are huddled next to it with our cups of herbal tea, enjoying it. I am also relieved: I don’t think this report is going to involve being told off.



Home energy lady is actually Victoria from the Himalayan Centre for Arts and Culture. You will have seen the building which is currently being transformed on Great Junction Street into an exciting venue to promote the culture of this fascinating part of the world. In the meantime however the charity runs free home energy visits funded by the Climate Challenge fund, and works on five core principles of responsibility, broadmindedness, creativity, curiosity and an emphasis on the non-material. Well, you can’t argue with that really can you? And it’s not difficult to see how this kind of thing can have an impact. Its estimated that a quarter of our emissions come from the home. I don’t drive a car so I imagine that my percentage is higher. I’ve just returned from a weekend of waving red umbrellas around in Paris with fifteen thousand other people protesting about climate change, but do I put my energy consumption where my mouth is?

I am mean with the heating, our flat is freezing, but I have a tendency to leave all the lights on: I feel sensitive to the dimness of tenement life and it gets me down. When rushing about getting kids ready I tend not to pay attention to switching them all off either. “It is important to think about your quality of life too” home energy lady reassures me. “I can see you might want the kitchen one on when you are working next to it in the living room, but maybe you could turn the one round the corner that you can’t see, off.”.

This makes sense and I feel positive about making small changes. I resolve that now my kids are tall enough to reach the light switches I might make a game of it being their job to turn them off. I take a shower timer, learn about turning off the radiators half an hour before I go out and pledge to draw my blinds and curtains at dusk instead of bedtime – which will have the added bonus of limiting my accidentally flashing the neighbours, I suppose.

I also sign up to borrow an energy monitor, interested to see where exactly my power is going. The government has pledged that we will all have ‘smart’ energy metres by 2020, but of course this leads to complaints of big brother style monitoring. However I like the sound of the technology. Am I better to tumble dry my washing or put the heating on more to dry it on radiators? If this makes the damp worse is it worth using the dehumidifier or relying on my husband’s harsh regime of open windows, even if that means more heating? Should I turn the wifi off at night? Is slow-cooking that shoulder of pork an act which will cost a week’s wages in electricity? I can’t wait to find out.

As I think about this, my mind flicks to another idea I heard on a training course: Energy Marbles. Which is to say, if you imagine you start each day with ten marbles of energy, you can pay attention to how you spend them. Does an argument with your son, a whingeing office mate and a badly functioning computer zap you of three of your ten before you even start work?

I think carefully about how I can replace lost marbles too. A brisk walk might earn one marble. Listening to Chumbawumba’s Bella Ciao on full blast gets quite a speedy one, but maybe two if I actually get up and dance to it. That’s enough to power half an article here dear readers, or a school pick up in reasonable weather.
Of course, none of this helps the environmental situation, save for the fact that the dancing cuts down the need to put the radiators on, but I do suspect that there is something in living sustainably in all areas of our lives. If we keep an eye on how we conduct ourselves personally we might end up with less environmental impact simply because we are not distracted and stressed into consuming, wasting and burning up more resources.

Keep an eye on your marbles. Use them wisely.

Info: Himalayan Centre for Arts and Culture

2 responses to “Using and Losing my Marbles”

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