On 31 March, 2007, 2.2 million people in Sydney, Australia, along with 2,100 businesses, turned out their lights between 7:30 and 8:30 pm. Originally conceived as a national event in Australia, by 2012 more than 6950 cities and towns across 152 countries were switching off for an hour.
Earth Hour 2013 will be held on March 23, from 8:30-9:30 pm your time, whatever time zone you’re in. They’ve put together a great video to help explain what it’s all about, but it’s pretty simple. No need to unplug your fridge, just turn off any non-critical electrical appliances – no TV, no computer, no lights, no non-battery-powered sex toys.
You could even make it something special, something memorable, for the kids. I’m planning to. I’m going to set up our tent in their room, light some candles, grab some flashlights, some snacks, and turn it into an adventure.
Of course, there are tangible benefits from reducing your use of electricity. In fact, as of July 1st Paris – the City of Light – will be taking the lead in reducing consumption, calling for lights to be switched off at businesses one hour after the last employee departs the premises, and extinguishing all outside and shop window lighting by 1 a.m. The government says that the measures will save the equivalent of the energy consumed by 750,000 households annually. Now imagine every city in France following suit. Every capital of Europe. Every city on the continent. The savings would be phenomenal.
Even at home, roughly 1/10th of our power usage is for appliances not, in fact, in use – they are simply in standby mode. Turn those appliances off completely (most easily done with a power strip with a switch), and you’ve cut your power consumption, and your bills, by 10%.
But turning off your lights for an hour once a year? What difference could that possibly make? Well, the message of Earth Hour is far more pervasive and persuasive than merely cutting the umbilical power cord for sixty minutes. It’s about raising awareness globally of the very real problems we’ve created for ourselves, and everything on our planet, with our runaway consumption of resources. It’s also about teaching our kids critical lessons in stewardship and environmental consciousness, and in a larger context about taking care of what we have and the people around us.
A great way to get them involved is to participate in an “I Will if You Will” challenge. You simply say what you would be willing to do – give up meat for a week, take public transport to work for a month, whatever – if a certain number of people will accept your challenge to, say, commit to recycling. To do our part, D and I made our own video challenges. My challenge is this: I will never, ever again order bottled water in a restaurant, IF 50 people will agree to walk, bike, or take public transport to work. D has pledged not to play with his Legos (and man, he loves those Legos) for a week IF 100 people promise to plant a tree.
So please, help us help the planet by going to Earth Hour’s page and taking up our challenges. And there’s still time to throw down your own gauntlets, make your own challenges. Spread the word, and let the folks on the International Space Station see the real lights go out, while our kids’ awareness is illuminated.