In 2007, the residents of Sydney, Australia blazed a new trail in the fight for more responsible and conservative approach to energy use and ways to reduce electricity around the world. For one hour, businesses and homes turned off all non-essential lights and appliances. This was a dramatic, visual gesture that launched a new annual event designed to keep the message and conversation about power consumption going – Earth Hour.
Earth Hour: why save electricity?
Since that momentous evening, Earth Hour has spread around the globe, becoming a truly international event that shows the true power of a supposedly ‘symbolic’ gesture. While it’s true that turning off lights for one hour around the world doesn’t accomplish much in the practical sense, Earth Hour is about much more than one small gesture once a year. It’s a reminder to everyone in the world that what we think of as our modern existence relies on energy, and that the energy we rely on isn’t infinite. Sitting in the dark for an hour is a response to the question ‘why save electricity?’ – the answer being, if we don’t start now, the time will come when we no longer have the choice.
The power of the Earth Hour concept isn’t simply the annual gesture – because everyone knows that Earth Hour is essentially only that – a gesture. The power of Earth Hour is that it’s just the tip of this iceberg, the most visible part of an ongoing, organised movement, the part that gets attention. Behind it is a coherent slate of education and real-world solutions ranging from the encouragement of energy saving products as simple as the EcoSwitch and energy efficient appliances (like those that participate in the Energy Star program) to consumer education concerning ways to save electricity. Instead of thinking of Earth Hour as the one hour a year you do something to change the world, think of it as the one hour a year the whole world is reminded of how much power we use unnecessarily, and then carry that thought with you through the coming months.
Earth Hour: saving power worldwide
The key here is that Earth Hour is a worldwide program, not just a media stunt. Earth Hour offers many ways for people to ‘go beyond the hour’ and work towards a more environmentally-friendly and energy efficient world, both as individuals and as members of local communities. In fact, the Earth Hour team knows that nothing will get accomplished unless both individuals and cities participate mutually, doing what they can each do on their own.
For individuals, the ‘I Will if You Will’ program encourages people to show their support for the goals of Earth Hour and encourage their friends, co-workers, and peers to get involved as well. It offers education on the simple, everyday things anybody can do to make their homes, commutes, and lifestyle use fewer resources and be as earth-friendly as possible, ranging from enacting their own personal Earth Hour every day by turning off unnecessary lights and using devices to reduce standby power in their homes, to volunteering and educating their neighbours.
For municipalities, Earth Hour sponsors the Earth Hour City Challenge, which supports and lobbies local governments to consider ways to reduce energy consumption and offers simple ideas that can be adopted immediately as well as broader policies that can be incorporated into city planning. The Earth Hour City Challenge is a mark of distinction and honour amongst cities worldwide – because nothing inspires a city more than the idea of competing against other cities around the world to demonstrate they are the best!
Last year, over 7,000 cities in 152 countries participated in Earth Hour, including some of the largest cities in the world. The growth of Earth Hour over the last few years from a movement begun in Australia to a true global phenomenon has transformed it into a prestigious mark of distinction and progressive thought on the part of a city or town, which further encourages people to lobby for their community to take part. Earth Hour is on the rise in the public’s imaginations and in the practical plans of city planners everywhere.