Germany’s New Favourite Sport: Competing to Save Energy
Kanebridge News
Share Button

Germany’s New Favourite Sport: Competing to Save Energy

After Russia throttled gas to the nation, washcloth wipe-downs and unheated pools; turning down the Christmas lights

Tue, Dec 6, 2022 9:03amGrey Clock 3 min

FRANKFURT, Germany—Psychologist Maria-Christina Nimmerfroh was doing her best to deliver an online lecture to business executives last month, but every few minutes an energy-saver switch in her empty classroom killed the lights.

Finally, she got tired of standing up to trigger the motion-detecting switch and lighted her face with her cellphone flashlight.

Russia stopped piping natural gas to much of Europe this fall, hoping to show Europeans that supporting Ukraine in the war might become too uncomfortable to bear. It didn’t count on Germans’ love of thrift.

Many Germans see frugality as part of their national identify, and bargain-hunting as a way of life. So they have embraced the energy challenge, finding ever more creative ways to slash consumption. So far, they are killing it.

Gas consumption by households and businesses in September and October declined by about a quarter from those same months in 2018 through 2020, even after adjusting for unseasonably warm weather, according to Oxford Economics, a think tank. The nation’s gas storage facilities are now 97% full, well ahead of the government’s most optimistic projections.

Germans have boasted on social media about who has kept the heat off longest as the weather turned colder, posting temperature readings as proof. They are swapping hot showers for washcloth wipe-downs, stocking up on thermal underwear, even lighting outdoor grills and camping stoves in their apartments.

Town councils have dimmed streetlights, lowered temperatures in public buildings and switched off hot water in public washrooms and showers. Swimming pools are left unheated. Some towns are considering turning off traffic lights. Saunas have closed. The city of Düsseldorf is considering lowering the temperature in a crematorium.

Grocery stores have shortened their hours and switched off some refrigerators. Churches are turning down the thermostat as low as 45 degrees and asking parishioners to donate blankets to older members. The Zugspitze ski resort is running chairlifts more slowly, and leaving their seats unheated.

Germans are trading tips on social media: Use the toaster to bake bread rolls. Do laundry every other week. Delete unneeded programs and apps from digital devices. Use the right lid for every pot.

A charity in the city of Bielefeld organized an energy-saving competition: Take two photos of your energy meter, six months apart. If your consumption is at least 10% lower than the average household’s, you have a chance to win €1,000, equivalent to $1,050.

“I have to admit, I’ve developed a certain sporting ambition about keeping the heating off for as long as possible,” Lion Hirth, professor of energy policy at the Hertie School in Berlin, posted on Twitter in October, triggering a deluge of me-too comments.

The Berlin Zoo has dimmed the lights and lowered the heat a bit for some animals, including giraffes and hippos, said spokeswoman Svenja Eisenbarth. At the city’s animal shelter, the thermostat in the dog kennels was dropped to 64 degrees. Dogs without warm fur are given winter coats.

Owners of exotic pets such as iguanas, which need to be kept at a balmy 77 to 82 degrees, have been dropping them off at the shelter, said spokeswoman Ute Reinhardt, and there is a waiting list of 50 for dog owners who want to do the same with their pets.

In Wolfratshausen, the town council cut in half the energy used by streetlights by converting them to LEDs and dimming them between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Even that wasn’t good enough for some local officials. “The LED lighting is too bright,” said city councillor Rudi Seibt, who wants the lights turned down to the lowest legal level.

Politicians in other countries often refrain from preaching about energy use, but not in Germany. Winfried Kretschmann, state premier of Baden-Württemberg, posted a video saying people should turn down their thermostats. He told a local newspaper that people didn’t need to shower as much, noting that “the washcloth is also a useful innovation.”

To shame officials or companies that aren’t taking their energy saving seriously, citizens are posting videos of well-lit monuments and overheated stores.

Last month, the Bild newspaper reported that a political party in eastern Germany had ordered portable oil radiators for the state parliament after room temperatures were reduced to 66 degrees. The newspaper published photos of the incriminating packages stacked in the parliament’s post room. “Uncooperative louts,” its front page blared.

Germany’s 21,000 chimney sweeps are helping police the energy-saving. The sweeps do more than clean chimneys. They check for gas leaks and problems in heating systems. Their inspections are mandatory.

“Suddenly, everything that emits heat in some form is an option,” said Andreas Walburg, a master sweep. “We see a dangerous trend here.” He said his clients have been experimenting with gas grills and gasoline-powered camping stoves indoors. “These heat sources are not suitable for closed rooms,” he said.

Now, Germans’ energy-saving fervour is colliding with another national passion: Christmas. Around the country, local authorities have been debating whether to allow traditional street markets, ice rinks and festive lights.

In Halle, the council decided to pare back Christmas lights. A fairy-tale forest on a market square will be illuminated only from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., reducing energy consumption by half, according to officials. Civic buildings, monuments and fountains will remain dark. There will be no illuminated Christmas tree on another market square.

“In our opinion, Christmas can also be atmospheric under reduced lighting,” said Mayor Egbert Geier.


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Related Stories
What We Fight About When We Fight About Money
How Starbucks Lost the Top Spot in China’s Coffee Race
By HEATHER HADDON 20/11/2023
Fisker Stock Tanks After Poor Earnings. EV Concerns Accelerate.
By Al Root 15/11/2023
What We Fight About When We Fight About Money

New research tackles the source of financial conflict and what we can do about it

Mon, Nov 27, 2023 3 min

When couples argue over money, the real source of the conflict usually isn’t on their bank statement.

Financial disagreements tend to be stand-ins for deeper issues in our relationships, researchers and couples counsellors said, since the way we use money is a reflection of our values, character and beliefs. Persistent fights over spending and saving often doom romantic partnerships: Even if you fix the money problem, the underlying issues remain.

To understand what the fights are really about, new research from social scientists at Carleton University in Ottawa began with a unique data set: more than 1,000 posts culled from a relationship forum on the social-media platform Reddit. Money was a major thread in the posts, which largely broke down into complaints about one-sided decision-making, uneven contributions, a lack of shared values and perceived unfairness or irresponsibility.

By analysing and categorising the candid messages, then interviewing hundreds of couples, the researchers said they have isolated some of the recurring patterns behind financial conflicts.

The research found that when partners disagree about mundane expenses, such as grocery bills and shop receipts, they tend to have better relationships. Fights about fair contributions to household finances and perceived financial irresponsibility are particularly detrimental, however.

While there is no cure-all to resolve the disputes, the antidote in many cases is to talk about money more, not less, said Johanna Peetz, a professor of psychology at Carleton who co-authored the study.

“You should discuss finances more in relationships, because then small things won’t escalate into bigger problems,” she said.

A partner might insist on taking a vacation the other can’t afford. Another married couple might want to separate their previously combined finances. Couples might also realize they no longer share values they originally brought to the relationship.

Recognise patterns

Differentiating between your own viewpoint on the money fight from that of your partner is no easy feat, said Thomas Faupl, a marriage and family psychotherapist in San Francisco. Where one person sees an easily solvable problem—overspending on groceries—the other might see an irrevocable rift in the relationship.

Faupl, who specialises in helping couples work through financial difficulties, said many partners succeed in finding common ground that can keep them connected amid heated discussions. Identifying recurring themes in the most frequent conflicts also helps.

“There is something very visceral about money, and for a lot of people, it has to do with security and power,” he said. “There’s permutations on the theme, and that could be around responsibility, it could be around control, it could be around power, it could be around fairness.”

Barbara Krenzer and John Stone first began their relationship more than three decades ago. Early on in their conversations, the Syracuse, N.Y.-based couple opened up about what they both felt to be most important in life: spending quality time with family and investing in lifelong memories.

“We didn’t buy into the big lifestyle,” Krenzer said. “Time is so important and we both valued that.”

For Krenzer and Stone, committing to that shared value meant making sacrifices. Krenzer, a physician, reduced her work hours while raising their three children. Stone trained as an attorney, but once Krenzer went back to full-time work, he looked for a job that let him spend the mornings with the children.

“Compromise: That’s a word they don’t say enough with marriage,” Krenzer said. “You have to get beyond the love and say, ‘Do I want to compromise for them and find that middle ground?’”

Money talks

Talking about numbers behind a behaviour can help bring a couple out of a fight and back to earth, Faupl said. One partner might rue the other’s tightfistedness, but a discussion of the numbers reveals the supposed tightwad is diligently saving money for the couple’s shared future.

“I get under the hood with people so we can get black-and-white numbers on the table,” he said. “Are these conversations accurate, or are they somehow emotionally based?”

Couples might follow tenets of good financial management and build wealth together, but conflict is bound to arise if one partner feels the other isn’t honouring that shared commitment, Faupl said.

“If your partner helps with your savings goals, then that feels instrumental to your own goals, and that is a powerful drive for feeling close to the partner and valuing that relationship,” he said.

A sense of mission

When it comes to sticking out the hard times, “sharing values is important, even more so than sharing personality traits,” Peetz said. In her own research, Peetz found that romantic partners who disagreed about shared values could one day split up as a result.

“That is the crux of the conflict often: They each have a different definition,” she said of themes such as fairness and responsibility.

And sometimes, it is worth it to really dig into the potentially difficult conversations around big money decisions. When things are working well, coming together to achieve these common goals—such as saving for your own retirement or preparing for your children’s financial future—will create intimacy, not money strife.

“That is a powerful drive for feeling close to the partner and valuing that relationship,” she said.


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Related Stories
Australian Shares Set to Stay on Course for Weekly Loss
By Stuart Condie 20/10/2023
Cheapest Capital City Suburbs To Rent Today
By Bronwyn Allen 02/11/2023
Best-Performing Super Funds Over 10 Years Revealed
By Bronwyn Allen 27/10/2023
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop