Chile's bid to save energy: men, leave your ties at home

As the summer kicks off in the southern hemisphere, the Chilean government is encouraging men to not wear ties, in an effort to decrease use of air conditioning – and thus energy.

By , Staff writer

It's the Chilean government's latest slogan: Welcome to Chile, take off your tie.

But it’s not an invitation to sit down and relax – it’s a call to save energy.

As the summer kicks off in the southern hemisphere, Chile’s energy ministry this week launched the campaign, “In summer, take off your tie” in an effort to save $10 million in four months. The thinking goes something like this: If buildings use less air conditioning – letting temperatures rise between one and three degrees Celsius – energy costs could go down by over 3 percent, representing million-dollar savings.

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"This small measure will help the country's energy efficiency. Reducing the use of air conditioning will lead to energy savings," energy minister Rodrigo Alvarez said in a statement (in Spanish).

A slew of government ministers launched the initiative this week with a video, uploaded here on YouTube, with each ripping off his striped pink and maroon ties and undoing top buttons. Joaquin Lavin, minister of social development, for example, takes off his solid blue tie, and says he’ll keep it off except for formal meetings.

The older generation might balk. A suit without a tie? How unfinished! But in men’s fashion circles across the world, ideas for summer suits without ties abound.

And in many parts of Latin America, forget the tie. In fact, forget the suit altogether. Men in tropical climes have long opted for the practical and elegant guayabera shirt instead. In Mexico, many a groom has wed in this alternative.

Chile’s authorities point out that they are taking a cue from Japan and Spain, where earlier no-tie initiatives were tried as energy-saving measures.

But those were not without controversy, as is recounted in this anecdote from Spain in an AP story.

Back in 2008, an industry minister appeared at Spain's parliament for a debate – without a tie. The nerve! The parliamentary speaker took offense and sent the minister a gift: a tie. But the minister refused to don it, and instead sent the speaker his own present: a digital thermometer (an apparent reference to the blasting air conditioning, even after the government had mandated that temperatures be kept warmer in government buildings to save energy). The media reported it to be the first time a male minister had appeared for a debate in parliament without a tie on. Some called it inappropriate, others practical. And the debate raged on.

Let’s hope Mr. Lavin, who is keeping his blue tie sealed away for special occasions, doesn’t forget it at his next formal meeting.

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