Daylight Saving Time Was Funded by 7-11

November 5, 2010 at 12:29 am 7 comments

By Chad Upton | Editor

Spring forward, fall back — that’s the phrase that moves our clocks the right way.

Most of North America, Europe, New Zealand and parts of Australia, South America and Africa currently observe Daylight Saving Time (DST). The days and times at which individual countries actually make the shift, varies widely.

In the following image, the blue zones currently observe DST. Orange zones no longer do and red zones never have. It should be noted that the further away from the equator, the more likely a country is to support DST since the daylight hours are more greatly affected.

Daylight saving time was invented by two people in different parts of the world at around the same time. The first man was George Vernon Hudson, an Australian, who proposed the idea in 1895. He wanted longer afternoons following work to spend collecting and studying butterflies and other bugs. The second man was William Willet, who proposed the idea in 1905 and wanted longer afternoons to play golf. He had no knowledge of Hudson’s proposal since he was half way around the world in London, England. Hudson was actually born in London but moved to Australia when he was 14, so two men from London invented daylight saving time on two different continents to enjoy more of life.

Although both men were seeking extra daylight hours for pleasure, the benefit of the idea was electrical savings. Since people would be awake for more daylight hours, they would run their electric light bulbs less.

Since that was a primary use for electricity, this was a big concern all over the world. In fact, there was a time when most of the world observed daylight saving time. But, that’s the not the case anymore: much of Asia and parts of Africa, Australia and South America no longer observe DST.

It’s a surprisingly controversial topic.

Although it was conceived in 1895 and it was a good idea, it didn’t actually get used until Germany saw a need for it in April of 1916. They started using it during World War I because it allowed them to run generators less, which helped ration coal and handle air raid blackouts. The United Kingdom started using it a month later. The United States started using it in 1918 and other countries followed.

When the war ended, many countries abolished its use, including the United States. It was reestablished in 1966 and has continued to grow ever since.

In the mid 1980s, Fortune magazine estimated that 7-Eleven stores could benefit an additional $30 million per year if daylight saving time was seven weeks longer. In 1987, 7-Eleven and Clorox funded the Daylight Saving Time Coalition that sought to extend the length of daylight saving time. More sunlight was good for retail business.

There have been many controversies over the benefits of daylight saving time.

Light bulbs currently account for about 3.5% of energy consumption in the United States and Canada. With the adoption of compact fluorescent bulbs, that number will decrease. In other words, it’s not a significant part of power consumption any longer. Some studies show that daylight saving time actually increases energy costs in some places due to a shift in peak energy consumption patterns and prices. There are many conflicting reports on whether DST really saves any electricity at all.

There are other benefits, such as fewer traffic accidents. It has been shown, and it seems reasonable to expect, that fewer traffic accidents occur during daylight. So, the longer the daylight lasts after work, the fewer accidents occur. But, it can a negative impact on some farming. For example, grain harvesting is best done after dew evaporates, which requires sunlight. But, the field workers go home after an hour less sunlight in the summer, reducing the number of hours that harvesting can take place.

Daylight saving time can also disrupt electronic devices. Most of them are set to change times automatically, but some don’t and some have problems doing it correctly. There was a recent problem in Europe and Australia with iPhones not changing time correctly, causing those who rely on their phone’s alarm clocks to be late for work.

Given all the controversy, perhaps the only concrete thing we can say about Daylight Savings Time is similar to what we already know from Wearing White After Labor Day: summer is for leisure and winter is for business.

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Sources: Engadget, Wikipedia (Daylight Saving Time, George Vernon Hudson)

Photos/Images: Wikimedia Commons (gnu license), Richard Yuan (cc)

Entry filed under: Demystified. Tags: , , , , , .

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. janec72  |  November 5, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Daylight Savings Time makes about as much sense as thinking you’ll make a blanket warmer by cutting a foot off one end and sewing it to the other…

    • 2. Elbyron  |  November 8, 2010 at 12:18 pm

      Jane, did you even read the article? The purpose of DST is to give us more daylight in the evening instead of the morning. What if your hypothetical blanket was thicker at one end. Wouldn’t you want to move the thicker part to better cover your body in the winter, and move it back during the summer?
      Even if the energy saving benefits are uncertain, using DST is worth it just for the lives saved in reduced traffic accidents. It also helps the economy by providing more daylight time for consumers (that’s why 7-11 could earn $30 million more with DST). Many outdoor leisure sport businesses such as golf courses will also benefit. A few farmers may complain that their workers have less time to harvest, but most have already compensated by simply changing the working hours of their employees.

      • 3. Tom  |  March 17, 2011 at 1:26 pm

        “What if your hypothetical blanket was thicker at one end.”

        Is time in the evening “thicker” than time in the morning? What does that even mean?

        “Even if the energy saving benefits are uncertain, using DST is worth it just for the lives saved in reduced traffic accidents.”

        Auto accidents are much higher for the week after DST switches. The net effect of DST on auto safety is virtually nil.

  • 4. jj2  |  November 9, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    I don’t know any farmers who work 9 to 5 hours, that’s just an odd thing to say. And yes, living in a rural area I know a lot of farmers.

    • 5. Chad Upton  |  November 9, 2010 at 10:17 pm

      I agree, but I think there are cases where the field hands go home when it gets dark.

  • 6. Ryan  |  November 9, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    I love that a dude that wanted more time to play golf managed to get a majority of the world to agree to change their clocks and adjust to his schedule. Totally awesome! Very interesting post Chad!

  • 7. janec72  |  March 17, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    @ Elbyron: I never suggested sewing a piece of the blanket on top of one end make a double thickness. I implied that a blanket (metaphorically: A 24-hour day) cannot be made warmer (or longer) by cutting off one end and sewing it to the edge of the other end. Oh, and BTW…. it was a *joke*.


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