When this initiative was first organized by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) back in 2007, the impact was immediate in Australia, where it all began, when 2.2 millions individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned off their lights for one hour to take a stand against climate change.
By 2008, more than 35 countries had jumped on board.
But has the buzz abated over the subsequent years? The jury’s still out, but there are cautionary signs, to be sure.
Perhaps the event has lost some of its luster. After all, shouldn’t climate change awareness be a 365-day affair, rather than just a 60-minute call-to-action one night a year?
Take what you will from the results of an online poll conducted by a Canadian newspaper last week – participants were asked if they intended to celebrate Earth Hour this year. Thirty per cent said yes, but 63% said no, with 7% undecided. Not what anyone would call even marginally supportive to the cause.
But that’s just one poll, one might argue, and certainly there are reasons to believe the Earth Hour message is still being heeded.
Social media has certainly embraced the initiative in a big way, particularly through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, with interactivity more focused than ever before. And many communities hold special events to urge individuals and businesses to turn out the lights from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., March 31, with celebrations featuring entertainment, free public transportation shuttles and more.
And some centres try to keep the momentum going for the rest of the year, by pledging to turn off all non-essential lighting and power for one hour on the last Saturday of every month – not just a one-off demonstration of support for the fight against global warming.
However, what’s more interesting, and perhaps more telling, is how individuals are embracing Earth Hour and all it represents.
A case in point: Ciara Antoski, a student at an Ontario high school. Last year, she went on an energy famine in the week leading up to Earth Hour, altering her daily lifestyle considerably to show how energy could be conserved on a personal basis.
This year, Ciara, along with other students, including Larissa Howatt, Colleen Armstrong and Sean McAndrew, is following a strict energy famine regimen again.
“From my energy famine last year, I’ve picked up a bunch of small habits that I still keep,” said Ciara. “Little things like using one towel instead of two when stepping out of the shower, eating less meat products, unplugging everything, and only using lights when I need them.
“I have also lowered my shopping sprees, and buy only what I need and rarely what I merely want. My energy famine was relaxing for me, so every once in a while I take a break from all electronics to relieve stress.
“I definitely walk or take public transportation much more now than I did before my energy famine, and unplug everything to reduce phantom power.
“This year, I hope to continue creating healthy environmental habits that are influenced by my energy famine, and encourage others to as well.”
Her group, she said, would be adhering to the energy famine from April 1 to 8.
> See complete list of Ciara’s individual energy famine rules at bottom of this article
Additionally, Ciara’s environmental science teacher, Thomas Sitak, said his students have chosen to use Earth Hour for a stewardship project.
“There’s a written component, and a community action component,” he said. “For the community part they are organizing an event for our whole school so that classrooms would be turning off the lights on Friday [the day before Earth Hour]. For the written component of the project they are surveying staff and students to get an idea of how many are participating.”
At the same time, Sitak has joined in as well, limiting the use of electronics his family uses at home.
What these types of endeavours indicate, then, is how the support for an Earth Hour idea is perhaps evolving. And while it seems the actual hour-long power outage concept, on its own, might be losing some of its sizzle, there are definitely positive developments or offshoots.
Maybe we just have to dig a bit, sometimes, to find them.
(The other students involved in the energy famine initiative have similar rules and regimens in place)
1. Don’t accept handouts
2. No black marker/pen
1. Five-minute showers only every other day
2. Shampoo every fourth day
3. Only use one towel to dry off for the seven days
4. Only two cups of water a day for washing face/teeth brushing, etc.
1. No straightener, blow dryer, etc.
2. No skin products
3. No hair products
4. No nail polish
5. No moisturizer
6. No chap stick
7. No perfume
8. No hair dye
1. No meat or dairy products
2. Only eat food with recyclable or reusable packaging
3. No cooking
4. No toaster
5. No microwave
6. Only allowed to drink tap water
7. No fast food restaurants/restaurants/eating in
1. No computer
2. No cell
3. Thirty minutes on telephone maximum, only receiving calls
4. No television
5. No radio
6. No music
1. Products must be made locally (Canada) or made in recyclable packages
1. No alarm clocks
2. No fans/ heaters
3. No phantom power
4. Laundry to be washed in cold water, and to be hung to dry if possible
1. Minimal deodorant
4. Books allowed
5. Matches/ candles
7. Allowed to use phone to contact people for work
8. Thirty minutes maximum to style hair for photo shoot on Saturday, April 7
9. Movies and other media sources in school
Greg McMillan is a founding partner at TheGreenHub.ca – Canada’s green news and information web portal. Feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or suggestions for topics to be covered in the Green Matters column. That could mean green lifestyle, business or human-interest items, including any personal or school-related projects or initiatives. Also, follow us on Twitter / @the_green_hub and @TheHubMan or Facebook / thegreenhub