Imagine not only how much energy we would save, how many tonnes of carbon dioxide wouldn't be released into the atmosphere, but imagine the spirit of goodwill and possibility that one single hour would generate.
That is the spirit behind Earth Hour. It is a brilliant example of an idea whose time has finally come. It started last year in Sydney, Australia, when for one hour on March 31st, 2007, the skyline when dark. Even the world famous Sydney Opera House dimmed its light. At the end of the hour, 2.2 million people had collectively reduced the city's demand for electricity by 10.2 percent, more than twice the original target of 5 percent. Since Australia generates the bulk of its electricity from coal, the result was that 250,000 fewer tonnes of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere. That's the equivalent of taking 48,000 cars off the road.
The exciting news is what happened last year was just the beginning. In 2007, Earth Hour was a Sydney event, in 2008, Earth Hour is a global movement.
On March 29th, 2008, from 8:00 to 9:00 pm, cities around the world have pledged to turn out their lights. It's anticipated that tens of millions of individuals will join in this single hour that may very well change the world. According to the Earth Hour website,
"Created to take a stand against the greatest threat our planet has ever faced, Earth Hour uses the simple action of turning off the lights for one hour to deliver a powerful message about the need for action on global warming."
It is a simple and elegant idea that marks the beginning of a new age of global awareness. After decades of procrastination by the world's leaders, Earth Hour will answer the question, "What if we just stopped stalling and did something?"
It is this simplicity that makes Earth Hour so powerful. Anyone, anywhere can participate. You can act individually, or count yourself in on the Earth Hour website.
While one single hour isn't going to change the world or the relentless onset of climate change, Earth Hour is a symbolic event that will create a tipping point in public opinion and hopefully political action. It is a good example of the power of the old adage, "Lead, follow, or get the heck out of the way."
To quote the Earth Hour website, "Turning the lights off for Earth Hour is a great first step, but if you really want to see a difference, then make Earth Hour part of your everyday life."
At home you can switch over as many light bulbs as possible to compact fluorescents, make a habit of turning off anything that doesn't need to be on, switch to cold water in the laundry and line dry whenever possible. If you really want to get serious, have a home energy audit and budget to upgrade appliances to more energy efficient models.
At the office you can start by turning off any equipment that isn't in use. Turn off lights at the end of the day, and find out if your company has a corporate energy policy. If not, ask why not! Encourage your company leaders to have measurable emission reduction targets, switch to green power and reduce traveling to meetings by teleconferencing. For air travel that is unavoidable, recommend that your company adopt a carbon offsetting policy. In other words, donations are made, based on the number of miles flown, to organizations actively working to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Mark 8:00 pm, March 29th, on your calendar and join in the countdown to the day that might just change the world.
To sign up for Earth Hour, or for more ways to reduce energy consumption, visit www.earthhour.org.
Visit the Office of Energy Efficiency and take advantage of the new ecoENERGY Efficiency Initiative to reduce energy use in buildings and houses, industry, personal vehicles and fleets. Homeowners and owners of small and medium-sized organizations can also apply for financial assistance from ecoENERGY Retrofit, as well as other grants and financial incentives.