Earth Hour – it’s about more than just one hour
This coming Saturday, March 26 at 8:30PM marks the fifth annual Earth Hour event where people and organization across the globe are encouraged to turn off their lights for one symbolic hour of unity and awareness about climate change and creating a sustainable future.
Earth Hour began in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million people and more than 2000 businesses took a unified stand against climate change by turning off their lights for one hour.
Does simply turning off your lights for an hour once a year really make a difference in combating climate change and creating a sustainable future? In and of itself, no, of course it doesn’t. But “just turning off your lights” isn’t the point. It about creating a sense of unity, that we are all in this together, and in that unity one person can make a difference.
Sure, that one individual act may seem infinitesimal in the face of the problem, but when combined with your neighbors it grows into a significant act. Just as Earth Hour has grown into a worldwide movement, the individual acts of millions – even billions – of people can and do make a difference.
Beyond the hour
This year Earth Hour organizers and participants are working hard to move their efforts “beyond the hour” to help grow and sustain the momentum gained in the symbolism of one hour and transform it into action throughout the year.
“Everyone has the power to make change: a CEO can change an organization, a 7-year-old can change a classroom, and a president can change a country. What we are announcing today is just the beginning,” said Earth Hour Co-Founder and Executive Director Andy Ridley. “It is through the collective action of individuals and organizations that we will be able to truly make a difference, which is why we are urging people across the planet to share how they will go beyond the hour this Earth Hour.”
Here are some examples from across the globe of individuals, organizations, and governments coming together in a sustained effort to go beyond the hour:
Girls Scouts USA
Thousand of Girl Scouts from nearly 20 Girls Scout Councils from across the U.S. will participate in a variety of programs including:
- The Girl Scout Council of the Florida Panhandle is encouraging people to lower energy use by replacing regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). More than 400 girls have distributed 3,500 CFLs at cookie booths across 19 counties as part of the campaign.
- The Girl Scouts of Colorado is planning an event at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver to go dark for Earth Hour and have girls with rechargeable flashlights form the letters “GS” on the west steps. Girls are encouraging communities to install energy-saving light bulbs and are handing out bulbs to communities across the state.
And that’s just a small sampling. Programs like Girl Scouts Forever Green will help sustain the effort and teach young people about ways to live sustainably – after all, they are inheriting the world we leave them.
“Our girls care deeply about the environment, and this partnership gives them a simple way to share this passion with their friends, families and communities,” said Kathy Cloninger, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of the USA. “It’s important that we all do our part to protect the environment.”
Actions big and small from around the world
It isn’t just the Girl Scouts, of course, that are getting involved. Last year’s Earth Hour saw hundreds of millions of people from 128 countries and territories come together to stand for a better world. This year’s Earth Hour will reach even further. Here are just some of the commitments and actions:
- The Government of Nepal has made a commitment to put a complete stop to tree-felling in the Churiya Range, a vital ecological and sociological forest area spanning around 6,500 sq km
- Pocoyo, an animated TV series, will reach out to its millions of preschool-aged fans across the globe over the next year, fostering “Learning through Laughter,” utilizing humor and learning to inform children about environmental issues.
- Nathi Mzileni, a 15-year-old boy from Swaziland, was inspired to take action in 2010 when he realized his town did not participate in Earth Hour. He started a group at his High School called Green Enviro to educate people about climate change, and this year will single-handedly make Earth Hour a reality in his town of Shimunye, Swaziland.
- Mengniu Dairy (Inner Mongolia Mengniu Dairy (Group) Co., Ltd.): the Chinese dairy company is doubling the number of milk cartons it recycles and increasing its use of FSC-certified packaging.
- Li Bingbing, the Chinese acting/singing sensation, has committed to being vegetarian for 100 days this year, in order to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions caused in the cycle of meat production and consumption.
- Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore MP, has committed to: another six separated cycleways, installing LED lights in parks and streets, and endorsing a tri-generation plant to provide low carbon energy.
- Chloe Nicol, a 7-year-old girl from Australia, is guiding her school to increase recycling and reduce energy waste. The school now also shuts their blinds instead of using air-conditioning to cool the rooms.
- Parrys Raines, a 15-year-old Australian girl, has convinced her school to install water filling stations and provide each student and teacher with a reusable stainless steel drinking bottle to reduce plastic bottle waste.
- CB Richard Ellis is going beyond the hour in 2011 by aiming to exceed their previous year’s record of more than 254 million square feet of real estate participating in Earth Hour, as well as making available events and activities for employee participation each month (Earth Hour, Earth Day, Green Building Day, Climate Week etc.)
- Credit Suisse AG became carbon neutral in 2010 through its global ‘Credit Suisse Cares for Climate’ initiative. This year, as well as sponsoring Earth Hour Singapore, Credit Suisse will continue to go ‘Beyond the Hour’ by sending staff to a Brazilian forest reserve to support field research into the effects of climate change.
- Power98FM will ensure all lights, computers and equipment will be switched off in studios when not in use, and continue to actively support WWF initiatives.
- Singaporean pop duo Jack and Rai: Jack has switched to a more efficient air-conditioning system, and committed to setting the temperature at 24 degrees Celsius. Rai will watch less TV, play less video games, and play more acoustic guitar to reduce his energy usage.
- Holiday Inn Atrium Singapore has committed to replacing the light bulbs in all of its 504 guest rooms to energy-efficient LED bulbs.
Beyond the Hour
With Beyond the Hour, Earth Hour begins a new phase in its global movement. Recognizing the turning off the lights is only the beginning, the aim this year is to get people, organizations, and businesses to commit to action – be it large or small – that they will sustain throughout the year. To help with that effort, Earth Hour has launched an online social media platform to allow anyone to share with the world their own commitment and action.
WWF Director General Jim Leape summed up the mission of Earth Hour – Beyond the Hour:
“The challenges that face our planet are immense, but never underestimate the possibility for change when we face these challenges with true common purpose. Hundreds of millions of people around the globe have given us a glimpse of what is possible. It is now time to go beyond the hour and show what can be done – by the people for the planet.”
Earth Hour 2011 will take place at 8.30pm, Saturday, 26 March, 2011.