Today I’d like to introduce you to a fun, cosy tradition that we have in my country, the Netherlands, to raise awareness to climate change. A tradition that’s only been around since 2007, but that’s already won the hearts of so many people and corporations. This year we’re expecting at least 200.000 people to join in. And I would love for the entire world to embrace this new Dutch tradition. What it is? Well, it’s called ‘Warmetruiendag’, or as you would say: Warm Sweater Day.
Warm Sweater Day is probably one of the happiest and fun climate actions in the Netherlands. This year we celebrate it on Friday February 15th. All participants pledge to turn down the heat in their homes, their offices and work place or their class rooms. Instead of heating up the space, they heat up themselves by wearing a comfy, cosy and warm sweater. Don’t warm the planet, warm yourself. It’s as easy as that.
Why should you wear a sweater?
Researchers from Cambridge University calculated that we could save no less than 70% of energy worldwide, with simple adjustments like better insulation. Even small changes in our every day life can have a big impact in sustainability. This Friday, for every thermostat that we turn down even as little as 1 degree Celsius, we save 6% energy en 6% CO2 emission. Isn’t that amazing?!
By wearing a sweater and turning down the central heating, you take action. You change the world. You help the planet. You take control. Imagine what impact you could have if you don’t restrict yourself to 1 day a year. But even if you only celebrate Warm Sweater Day this 1 day a year, you still make a change. And you inspire your family, friends, students or co-workers to do the same. You raise awareness about the way we heat up our homes and offices to the point we wear blouses in winter, because it would be too hot inside to wear a nice, cosy sweater.
How did Warm Sweater Day come to life?
Warm Sweater started in 2007. It was the Klimaatverbond, or the Climate Alliance, that initiated it. They found their inspiration in the Kyoto Protocol. In the Kyoto Protocol countries around the globe committed themselves to reduce global warming by reducing the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. Kyoto’s birthday is on February 16th, so every year around that date there’s a celebration. Warm Sweater Day is supposed to remind all of us of the promises we made to reduce emissions and stop global warming.
After a few years the Climate Alliance partnered up with Greenchoice, a sustainable energy supplier. Since then, they organize Warm Sweater Day together and even won a few prizes for it. They were runner-up at the Sustainable Energy Europe Awards in 2014 and a year later they grabbed the National Energy Globe Award. Emke Mol, project leader at the Climate Alliance, says: “Technological innovation, energy efficient builds and legislation are important as well, but energy efficiency starts and ends with the part people play. Greenchoice Warm Sweater Day shows people in a sympathetic way that together we can make a sustainable difference!
What good does it do to wear a sweater?
Many people think that the little things they do won’t matter, so why bother. But it’s never a little thing. Especially when more and more people chip in, those little things become significant. So here are some numbers. Lowering your central heating 1 degree Celsius saves you 6% energy and reduces CO2 emissions with 6% as well.
Greenchoice calculated that if everyone in the Netherlands would turn the heat down 1 degree Celsius, it would save 3.300.000 m3 gas PER DAY. And it would reduce CO2 emissions with 6.300.000 kilograms. Only 1 degree, for only 1 day. And that’s just our tiny country that most of you can’t even find on a globe (or could you?).
Inquiries have shown that after participating in a Warm Sweater Day, 1 in 5 people start being more aware of how much energy they use. Many of them even turned down their central heating for good and simply started wearing warmer clothing or cuddle up under a blanket when watching television or reading a book. That’s what I always do. I looove my blankets.
Want to know the Dutch’s favorite sweaters?
The Climate Alliance and Greenchoice did a poll about people’s preferences when it comes to their sweaters. Because, hey, it’s all for climate and sustainability, sure. But it’s also fun! Don’t we all have a sweater that we really really love to wear?! Here are some fun facts about Dutch preferences.
The Dutch are almost unanimous in their favorite kind of sweater: 92% of them prefers a machine knitted one. Nearly half wants it to have a round collar. And 77% prefers the sweater to be in 1 color. Only 33% likes their sweaters to be baggy and 59% wants it to be a tight fit. Makes me wonder what kind of sweater you love most.
Sad thing though: most sweaters stay in closets most of the time. The poll showed that many people say it is often too hot to wear a warm sweater. Many own a real thick winter sweater, but don’t wear that on a week day. Because they say it’s much too hot at work, at school, in public buildings and even in public transportation. Isn’t that a shame? Some scientists say it makes our bodies thermostat ‘lazy’. So it would not only benefit our climate to turn down the heat, it might be better for our health too.
What companies and organisations were inspired?
Early editions of Warm Sweater Day sparked interest in many institutions and large companies. Some participants were the Dutch Railways (Nederlandse Spoorwegen), Erasmus University Rotterdam, the province of Groningen, research institution TNO and dozens of primary schools. Even Donald Duck joined in with a special edition of the Dutch weekly magazine. The whole of Duckburg turned the central heating down ‘Scrooge McDuck-style’. How fun is that!
Warm Sweater Day inspires people and organizations to additional action too. Second hand stores donate warm sweaters to local food banks all week. The University of Maastricht also dedicates an entire week to warm sweaters. And there’s a thermo-scan to be won to know how well your own home is insulated. Companies, schools, local governments. More and more people support and join the Warm Sweater Day tradition.
In my home town the council call on all companies, schools, communities and institutions to turn the central heating down 1 degree too. The council even offers some prizes you can win when participating. Hoping that as many people as possible join in Warm Sweater Day 2019. I know I am, even though I already keep my thermostat on the low end and use my blankets every day. I want to save energy every day of the year, but don’t mind doing even a bit extra on Warm Sweater Day.
Are you joining in this Warm Sweater Day?
It’s fun to go to work or school in your favorite sweater and feel good about doing your part for the environment. Will you join the Dutch tradition of Warm Sweater Day? And maybe even help make it a worldwide tradition? That would be so awesome. Maybe your casual Friday can become casual sweater day? I know it’s just a small gesture and there’s so much more to be won. But every bit helps. It really does. That’s what I write about on this website all the time: all your choices matter. Everything you do, or don’t do, matters. How you spend your money matters. Wearing warm sweaters matters.
This Friday I’ll be wearing an extra warm sweater to celebrate Warm Sweater Day. It would be so great if you would too. And I’d love to see you in your favorite sweater, so don’t be shy to message me or tell how it went in the comments below. Happy Warm Sweater Day!