On Saturday, March 19, millions of businesses and individuals worldwide will celebrate Earth Hour by turning off all lights and electronics from 8:30 - 9:30 PM local time. The voluntary rolling blackout that includes 350 of the world’s most iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, Taipei 101 and the Sydney Opera House, is more than a symbolic gesture — It is proof of what can be achieved if we all unite to reverse climate change.
Now in its ninth year, Earth Hour is the brainchild of the Australian chapter of the World Wildlife Organization (WWF). On March 31, 2007, the nonprofit urged the citizens and businesses in Sydney to switch off all lights and turn off all non-essential devices for one hour. Over 2 million households and 2,100 businesses complied with the request! What is amazing is that this small gesture helped save 10% of the electricity (the equivalent of carbon dioxide emitted by 48,000 cars) consumed by the city's residents in a regular evening hour.
News of the impact of this simple action inspired more people to join the Earth Hour movement. In 2008 over 50 million people in over 5,000 cities worldwide observed the hour and the numbers have only grown since. Today Earth Hour is the biggest voluntary environmental movement in the world and is celebrated in over 7,000 cities and towns worldwide.
The annual event is held in mid to late March to coincide (as much as possible) with the spring and autumn equinoxes. That's because during this time of the year both the hemispheres experience sunset at about the same time. This ensures the best visual impact and makes for impressive images of the usually glimmering city skylines going dark.
Besides making a difference, the WWF says the worldwide participation demonstrates people's desire to do their share to reverse climate change. For those that want to make a difference beyond the hour, the organization suggests several initiatives. They range from donating funds to save the rainforests, to signing petitions against proposed laws that would be detrimental to the environment. This year, the WWF is asking people to 'donate' an hour of their social media page to raising Earth Hour awareness.
The WWF also hopes that in addition to observing Earth Hour, people will continue making a difference throughout the year with small lifestyle changes. The organization says that simple things like switching off unnecessary lights to choosing wood pencils over plastic ones, can go a long way to help reverse climate change.
Not sure what to do without your gadgets and television for a whole hour? WWF suggests organizing a candlelight dinner for your family or even better, a picnic under the stars. If that is too tame for you then how about a late night hike or bike ride? Those that want to make it an Earth 'Night' could plan a camping trip complete with an old-fashioned bonfire and yummy s'mores!
Are you ready to take the Earth Hour challenge? Then sign up at earthhour.org and commit to 'switching on your social power' to help spread the word. Remember, climate change can be reversed if we all help - So be sure to do your part!