In our home, we try our best to cut down on electrical usage, primarily because of cost. But I will admit that I cannot resist turning the light on in the living room just because .... it's so pretty. In the process of our recent living room makeover, we made better decisions concerning lighting and have been enjoying our new lights so much.
We have this uplighter and it does wonders to the living room. Basks it in a warm glow somehow. When I look at my living room like this, I feel like a real grown-up, like my own childhood dream of 'playing house' has come true, to have a home that I love.
I love my home and my husband and I are on a perpetual home improvement phase; we're always making small changes here and there. I cannot bear the thought of losing my home. Which is why when IKEA approached me to share about the "Brighter Lives for Refugees" project, which helps people who have lost their homes, I knew this was something I couldn't say 'no' to.
At this juncture, I have to point out that my opinions about IKEA are possibly biased - I played in the ball pit at IKEA Katong when I was 6 years old, I was a big fan of IKEA in my teens, I worked at IKEA in my 20s, and since then, my respect for the company that has taken upon itself to create a better everyday life for everyone, has grown. So yes, I believe in its values, and yes, I believe in the good it is doing. But no, it is not without reason. This is a company that honestly wants to help, and does everything it can to. You can read about IKEA's other efforts to help communities around the world here, and how sustainability is part of everything it does here.
IKEA has been partnering with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to bring light to otherwise lightless UNHCR refugee camps around the world including Ethiopia, Chad, Bangladesh and Jordan. Through this campaign, solar street lights, indoor solar lanterns and other renewable energy technologies have been provided to families in these camps.
In Singapore, the sun sets at about 7pm, and day breaks at about 7am. I cannot imagine going through 12 whole hours in complete darkness, yet it is a norm to millions of people around the world. There are about 10.5 million refugees globally, half of which are children. To them, even a simple activity like going to the toilet, reading, or returning home at night - everyday things that we take for granted - can be a dangerous task. Having light will play a big part in making their lives safer.
We may be far away, but we can help too. For every LED light bulb sold during 1 Feb - 28 Mar 2015, IKEA donates €1 to help the UNHCR by funding its projects that help refugees in refugee camps across Asia, Africa and the Middle East. You can read more about the IKEA Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign here.
While it isn't possible to simulate the exact conditions of a refugee camp, IKEA has requested that I try out a night without electrical light sources, just to have a feel of it. The tricky part was to involve the kids as well because well, they're a part of our lives and all. There were the usual things to do like get them cleaned up after dinner and ready for bed, with stories and all that.
Just to get everyone on the same page, this is what it's like in the bathroom with no lights on, "without kids" versus "with kids".
As for the adults, we prepared ourselves for a different kind of night. I know what you're thinking. You're looking at today's date to see if you should congratulate us 40 weeks from today. I'm sorry to disappoint you but we simply went about our usual routines which included watching a movie in bed.
I'm one of those weird ones who get a headache from overpowering scents, particularly from air fresheners and candles. But I figured one scented candle in the bathroom couldn't hurt. Thankfully I was right.
Because kids are, you know, kids, they were really excited to see candles all over. We were careful to place them in high spots so that the kids were not able to reach them, but still, they couldn't resist blowing out a candle or two. After singing Happy Birthday of course. They had fun flashing their torches on the ceiling, and playing with their light sticks, but reading books proved to be quite a challenge.
When bedtime approached, they were accompanied by our old battery operated Christmas lights that I put in a plastic corner. No candles in their room for two reasons: 1. air conditioning and 2. it's fire, and they are kids - active, curious, I-want-to-touch-everything kids.
In the living room, however, when I knew they were sound asleep, I laid the candles on the coffee table, something I'd not done since they arrived. The kids, not the candles.
It may have been a fun night for us, but the harsh fact still remains, that millions around the need light, and through IKEA, we can help make that happen. The next time you're shopping for lights at IKEA, look for LED light bulbs; for every LED light bulb that you buy, you can help someone have a brighter life.
And soon, IKEA will only sell LED lights - they last longer (up to 20 years!), consume up to 85% less energy compared to traditional lightbulb (thus saving us money on electrical bills!), they contain no mercury, light up immediately and can be recycled.
More good news? Yes please! Bring your used halogen or incandescent lightbulbs to IKEA Alexandra and IKEA Tampines from 6 to 8 Feb 2015 and receive free LED light bulbs. It's a 1-for-1 exchange, up to 3 lightbulbs per person, and limited to the first 1,000 bulbs per day. Now that is a bright idea!