CENECO could have made it easier if it purposely tripped off its power generation at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday to time with Earth Hour.

As it is, the private sector did its part. SM City-Bacolod invited me to join the mall synchronize its light-off with Metro Manila-based establishments such as the Ayala Center in Makati, The Fort in Taguig, and the SM Mall of Asia. For that matter, SM’s chain of malls in major cities in the country joined dimming the lights of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Empire State Building in New York, landmarks and skylines.

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The occasion was the global event to turn off the lights for Earth Hour from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. to foster lifestyle changes in power usage to mitigate climate change. The message is that less is more.

The synchronized event wants to inspire global citizens to adopt ecological efficiency with the way we consume power, water, and other resources in the name of caring for Mother Earth. Direct action is the name of the game.

Last year, 88 countries with different time zones took part, with the Philippines coming ahead as the top participant in the event, with over 15 million Filipinos voluntarily saving energy. The country saved around 611 megawatt-hours of electricity in 2009, equivalent to shutting down a dozen coal-fired power plants for 60 minutes.

Of course, we can lessen our power uses outside of Earth Hour. The simple act of turning off appliances or the use of CFL bulbs can lessen our power consumption. Or the use of mugs when we brush our teeth can decrease our water consumption.

At home, we stopped ironing our clothes. A tough act to do, admittedly. When I was in New York, I slept late to iron my clothes. I guess it’s a Filipino habit. But in Columbia University, most students come as if they just came from a come-as-you-are party after a long sleep. They never even bothered to stretch their crumpled shirts. But once I learned to live with it, it became easy to forgo ironing.

On another note, I like what I saw with the malls. Energy efficiency need not scrimp on their bottom lines. That’s what I learned last Friday from George Anthony R. Jardiolin, mall manager of SM City-Bacolod.

George explained that SM’s Corporate Social Responsibility requires the company to promote environmental programs. The company educates its employees, tenants, shoppers and the community through practice, information dissemination to raise awareness. It adheres to the principles of green building and standards.

SM malls reduce water use while retaining efficiency in operating the mall. SM malls built Tertiary Treatment Plants to process water for maintenance. Treated water is reused for cooling towers, restroom flushing, irrigation and grounds keeping. It installed waterless urinals in its washrooms. Thus the malls can save 153 million liters per year of its potable water supply.

SM engineered its malls according to Building Management Systems for aircon management to increase energy efficiency. The system adjusts to fluctuations of hot and cold spaces to ensure consistency to pre-determined temperatures that saves energy consumption. The company invested ?300 Million in equipment, installation of variable speed drives and consultancy services for Focus EBAs, thus saving 48 million KWH per year for electric consumption.

The Tenants Solid Waste Management Program requires SM tenants to reduce their volume of solid wastes by 20 percent every year through proper waste disposal. Tenants and mall garbage haulers segregate wastes at source and proper disposal of residuals. Collection and consolidation are strictly monitored to ensure 100 percent compliance. The company can thus reduce its solid wastes by 20 percent each month.

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