How often do you see a heartbreaking image of a polar bear whose habitat is melting away or a headline warning that time has run out to reduce our carbon emissions — and then feel like giving up? It has happened to me many times. There is a way to feel better, though, by doing something easy and fun: Turn off the electricity for an hour and get paid by OhmConnect!

An easy way to ease the guilt and worry about pollution and climate change? Turn off the electricity for an hour and get paid by OhmConnect.

First, you may be wondering how this helps. OhmConnect is an Oakland, California-based company that helps the energy grid withstand peak hours by selling energy — potential energy. Instead of actually making electricity by burning coal/gas, capturing sunlight or spinning in the wind, OhmConnect provides electricity savings to the grid when it needs it, thereby preventing dirty power plants from firing up in the first place. Once you have signed up to save when asked to do so, the company uses your smart meter data to determine how much electricity your household consumes. If you reduce when they ask, you win rewards.

My referral code:

Currently, the service is available in California, Texas and Toronto, Canada, and the participating utilities are Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and Toronto Hydro.

Now we get to the fun part. You may know that we are a nature-loving family that enjoys camping. My sons were both scouts and one achieved Eagle Scout. My husband rides his bike all over Oakland and is the only commercial truck driver I know who commutes by bike to his job! We only have one car… You get the picture. Doing our part for the planet is something that’s ingrained in us. Nevertheless, the first time I told everyone we were shutting off the mains to play boardgames, tell stories or draw by candle light for an hour, they all complained.

Here are the inspiring energy-saving results from our Oakland OhmConnect team.

It only happens once every few weeks, so it’s not a frequent interruption, but guess what! They love it! For an hour in the evening we draw, walk the dogs, sit around the table talking, play games, make popcorn on the stove (it’s gas)… As for money, we’ve made a couple hundred dollars so far, meaning it pays 1-2 energy bills per year.

Plus, it’s easy now days to go “off the grid”, thanks to smart phones and rechargeable devices. And you don’t even have to be as extreme as we are about it: You can simply use smart plugs on your biggest energy hogs (we only have one, a refrigerator, but others would include thermostats and heaters) and let OhmConnect automatically power these down during an OhmHour.

Switching off the circuit breaker also resets your expectation around electricity. When I was growing up, it was commonplace to go around shutting off switches. Now the opposite is true — it seems like everything is pulling juice, all the time. That’s a wasteful practice that’s got to change.

Try OhmConnect. And even if you don’t qualify for the program, enjoy shutting everything off for an hour or more a week. I think you’ll find it refreshing.