When I was 11, a massive pine tree fell onto our family car, folding it in half like a crumpled soda can. I remember my parents standing in front of the window, sipping steaming coffee in their pajamas, staring at the wreckage as if they could think the vehicle back into its proper shape.
Outside, temperatures had plummeted to the “my-nose-is-frostbitten” variety. It was the beginning of the famous “Ice Storm of ‘98” – a perfect mix of snow and freezing rain that destroyed electrical infrastructure along the northeastern US and Canada. For the next 10 days, there was no power. No, really. None.
The first night, Mom took down the long white decorative candles from the walls to use at the kitchen table. I remember orange light dancing on my sisters’ faces as we held hands saying grace. Later, there was a game of monopoly on the piano bench. We laughed at how hard it was to find properties in the dark.
I’m in my thirties now, but each time I turn off the electricity and opt for natural light, I still feel that same giddy excitement I did as a child. It’s like getting back on a bike after years away from it. I mentioned this to my roommate the other day. Her mouth was full of salad, but her eyes lit up as she motioned for me to listen.
“We should make it a thing!” she mumbled, coughing away a bit of vinaigrette. “Imagine if everyone agreed to not use electricity one night a week. You could have candlelit dinners!”
“Or tell stories,” I said.
“Or whatever! Point is – people could share their experiences, and they’d be helping to save the planet.”
Solid idea, right? Imagine how much money we’d save. Actually, don’t imagine. I’ve crunched some numbers for you, and here is how much you’d save: $18/month in the US (where electricity is cheapest and most consumed), and upwards of $30 in most European countries.
But perhaps even more importantly (said with heavy sarcasm), it would save our planet roughly 3,600 terawatt hours each year. To be clear, saving a single terawatt is the equivalent of not burning up 800 million gallons of petroleum. That’s over one million Olympic swimming pools full. Yeah. Now do that another 3,599 times.
And yes, I know that not everyone could participate in Candlenight. So please don’t write some stupid ass comment like “What about people on respirators?” That’s missing the point. Because most of us could.
There’s so much to be gained by not reaching for a light switch. It is a conscious decision to do what is slow, conscientious, and sustainable. It is being OK with quiet. With solitude. With darkness. And connecting with tangible things in our environment, instead of always looking for a screen for guidance.
I vote Candlenight become a thing. Who’s with me?