Energy Diet

Round Two of the 360º Energy Diet has come to a close, and the bloggers are all feeling a bit lighter, both figuratively and literally: at least two of them say they lost some body weight.

Eight weeks ago, eight families from around the world pledged to save energy in every aspect of their lives–a full-circle 360-degree diet–and share with National Geographic readers their experiences.

Civilization has not proven to be adept at the task of using less energy. The world’s energy use, in fact, has increased in every year since the industrial revolution began, except during times of economic stress–most recently in 2008 and 2009. But forecasters say that the planet is on track again to increase its demand for energy nearly 50 percent in the next generation. Is there anything we as individuals can do to reverse this chilling projection?

Our eight Energy Dieters decided to find out. They included Monia, a technical translator in Portugal; Daniel, a student in Australia, Elizabeth, who runs a charitable NGO in Kosovo; Kory, a funeral director in Canada, Cecilia, an architect in South Africa; Zong, a student in China; Vanessa, a geography teacher in the Scottish isle of Islay; and David, chief of National Geographic Digital News in the United States.

Perhaps David summed up best what the 360 Energy Diet is all about:

“It’s no good thinking that we cannot make much of a difference as individuals,” he wrote. “It’s precisely because most people think like this that we make no real progress in reducing the human impact on the planet.”

Here are some other highlights from the last eight weeks.


No. 1 point-earner by a wide margin was Kory at 610, followed by David at 515. Vanessa and Monia were close competitors for third place, at 480 and 470 points, respectively.

David cut his year-over-year electricity consumption at home by 16 percent and lost body weight too.

Cecilia admittedly fell short on her goals for cutting plastic bag use, but she did start a garden, tried out cloth diapers and also played media ambassador for the diet in this Radio 702 interview.

Zong cut her already-low meat consumption to only 150 grams (about 5 ounces) per week — a reduction of about 450 grams (about 15 ounces) from what she was consuming before.

Vanessa took us to a new green hotel on her island, her classroom and a community garden. She also got her students to help her reduce electricity use at school by reminding her to turn off lights and computer.

Elizabeth gave up many forms of plastic and, as she promised to do, gave up her beloved but packaged, synthetic and imported Kinder Bueno bars.

Monia did not let failure stop her from trying cloth diapers, trying a second time and figuring out the key to making the switch. She and Tiago also reduced their energy bills.

Daniel went out of his comfort zone and tried public transit for a trip he normally would have taken by car, and found it wasn’t so bad.

Kory ventured into xeriscaping and collecting rainwater.


  • Use Freecycle, Craigslist and secondhand stores to get — and dispose of — merchandise. (Monia, Vanessa, Zong)
  • Turn cardboard boxes into bookshelves. (Zong)
  • Keeping worn-out jeans for patching bags or clothing. (Zong)
  • Get a Kindle instead of buying books. (Vanessa, Zong)
  • Skype instead of traveling in person. (Kory)
  • Use cloth diapers for baby. (Monia, Cecilia)
  • Put a water bottle in the toilet to save 1 liter of water with each discharge. (Monia)
  • Give memories, not gifts. (Kory)
  • Substitute honey for sugar. (Elizabeth)


Have we thought about the environmental inadequacy of our purchasing actions? Well, we have. And how do we feel? Well… happ… OK, guilty! — Monia

[T]o exist in a more earth-friendly way, I realize I actually need to fundamentally change the way I live. …When you feel short on time, you do things the wasteful way. — Elizabeth

People will never remember the casket that a person was buried in, but they will always understand what was said to them, who was there, and what it feels like to have loved and lost.– Kory

I am a great believer in a bright green future; technologies exist. We need to get governments to invest in them and we need to make the small changes that will give the next generation a bright green future. —Vanessa

When I walk past the old Russian-style buildings or look down from the arch bridges, I always feel so happy I haven’t called a taxi or gotten on a bus, where I would only see those beautiful things running so fast backward through a closed window. I wouldn’t be able to watch the old houses lying below the bridge; nor would I see the little grass rising around the trees. – Zong

There are 1,001 ways to save the planet, but it doesn’t mean we have to adopt them all at the same time. If each one of us adopted and stuck to only 10 sustainable measures, that would really make the difference. — Monia

While hiking through the African bush for days on end, I also learned how it’s possible to shower with only a bottle of water — dangling it from a tree and using it sparingly to soak and rinse. It shows what can be done when every drop is precious. — David

I can’t decide whether I’m living in an environmental disaster zone or a slightly grubby paradise. — Elizabeth

Even with the few days we did use the cloth [diapers], I felt a little bit like the girl who tossed the starfish back into the ocean. Just that one disposable diaper that did not get used made a small difference. — Cecilia

The temptation is always there to buy some plastic toy from the dollar store [as gifts], but why not buy a memory instead? …Memories last a lifetime – plastic toys are outgrown and eventually disposed of.– Kory

[Reducing consumption] made me realize that it’s as important to learn about how to live and take care of myself as it is to learn how to solve a math problem or to appreciate a poem [as a student]. – Zong

I feel like an ex-junkie trying to kick the habit, but surrounded by a bunch of enablers: ‘Do you want a plastic bag with that’ haunts me now even in my dreams. — Cecilia

I now make sandwiches before I go to bed at night and take a lunch box to work – something that I did for almost twelve years in school and I do not know why I stopped this as soon as I started university. I suppose with disposable income comes a degree of laziness. — Daniel

It’s no good thinking that we cannot make much of a difference as individuals. It’s precisely because most people think like this that we make no real progress in reducing the human impact on the planet. — David


  1. Kay Von Riesen
    St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
    July 13, 2011, 11:35 am

    I applaud all of you. I look forward to reading more of your ideas & comments.
    At age 65, I have done most of the things you are doing out of necessity, but have easily moved into more of a convenient lifestyle. But it’s time to seriously plan better ways of living, in our quest to improve our planet, & rescue it as best we can.

  2. Thissen nadassen
    July 13, 2011, 1:13 pm

    Great achievement guys.

    This will give us more ideas on how to be more energy conscious. I also believe that energy diet should include spending less on non-veg food which would at the same time be more animal friendly.

    Let’s save our planet!

  3. kory mcgrath
    July 18, 2011, 9:41 pm

    We LOVED taking part in this challenge. Thank you Christina Nunez and National Geographic for the opportunity.

  4. Basp uant
    July 20, 2011, 11:46 pm

    While it is great to see people change their habits for the better if ind myself laughing out loud at the best out of the box idea of buying a kindle to save the world.
    1. there is nothing outside of the box at this idea (same for most of these ideas, most of them are not new or outside of any box)
    2. i am not so sure about the environmental positiveness of buying an electronic device (ie lots of chemical waste while production and end of life, plus energy consumption, plus the fact that in 2 year it will be replaced by a nw one) to replace going to the library and borrowing books that are already there….
    but hey, now i have an excuse to buy an ipad, it environmentally friendly… i am sure not even Steve Jobs thought he could get away with that

  5. Christina Nunez
    July 25, 2011, 12:16 pm

    Thanks for your comment. I’m glad to hear that you are already savvy regarding so many ways to save energy. I don’t think anyone would argue that buying an e-reader or any electronic device is going to save the world. However, if you’re a frequent book reader, it is certainly going to save a lot on production and shipping, and thus energy, even factoring in the need to replace the device eventually (though perhaps not as soon as two years). Of course, another, perhaps better and cheaper solution would be to borrow books from the library, if you’re lucky enough to have access to a good one.

  6. Monia
    July 27, 2011, 4:10 am

    That kind of reminds me of the discussion on buying or not buying an iPod or any MP3 player to avoid buying tons of CDs throughout our lifetime. If you are an eco-music lover, I´m sure it´s worth it. The same goes for e-readers, if you are a heavy book consumer and cannot wait until the book you really want to read is available in your local library… Reducing your footprint doesn´t mean you have to stay behind.

    But actually I just wanted to seize the opportunity to thank all the NG team, Christina and Chad, and everyone who made it possible for me and my blog-fellows to be part of this challenge. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading the next challenge blog entries!

  7. April Mae M. Berza
    August 6, 2011, 3:43 am

    Let us write a book about it. The fight against the aging of the Earth is our goal to maintain the existence of our humanity. If we are not to act now, there is nothing more left for us. Our Mother Nature is calling us. Let this serve as a planetary emergency for us.