Join Earth Hour next Saturday, March 28 at 8:30pm local time

**Update:** headline typo has been fixed. Earth Hour falls on **Saturday**, March 28 at 8:30 PM local time.

For the past few years, World Wildlife Fund has sponsored a worldwide effort to raise awareness of energy use by asking us to stop using energy for an hour. Earth Hour started in Sydney, Australia but has spread quickly to the United States and the rest of the world. This year over 1,750 towns and cities in over 80 countries are turning off the lights for Earth Hour. Almost 20,000 businesses around the world have pledged to do the same. The folks at World Wildlife Fund estimate that as many as 1 billion people around the world will participate this year.

It really couldn’t be easier. At 8:30pm local time, wherever you are, turn off the lights, TV, PC and air conditioner for an hour. If you’re having dinner at home, break out the candles. If you’re having dinner out, ask the restaurant to!

(If you’re in San Francisco, come join a bunch of the TerraPass staff at Medjool, where the SF Earth Hour coordinators are inviting the local citizenry to witness synchronized light extinguishing in nearby buildings from the roof deck. Spot one of our TerraPass name tags and come say hello!)

There are a number of other great Earth Hour gatherings happening in San Francisco, New York, and around the country. Check to find out what’s happening in your local area, or better yet, get something started yourself.

Unsurprisingly, anything as fun and community-oriented as this brings out the curmudgeons.

“Turning off the lights seems a meek and hollow gesture, a feel-good measure that may fleetingly raise awareness, but does little to educate or change long-term habits…” grouses Joel Makower at GreenBiz. He suggests that “we can do better by funneling the collective energy behind Earth Hour into a billion efforts to promote energy-efficient (and money-saving) products and practices to the masses.”

This sounds suspiciously like the argument that buying carbon offsets is a way to justify or excuse carbon-heavy behavior, as if everyone who purchases offsets for their cars would otherwise just stop driving. I guess that translates to thinking, with Makower, that everyone who participates in Earth Hour would otherwise be “spending Earth Hour replacing those switched-off light bulbs with more energy-efficient models.”

But who do you think is pushing Earth Hour, participating in Earth Hour, talking about Earth Hour, other than the people who already care about the environment, who are taking steps in every aspect of their lives to live more sustainably? We’ve shown it twice now in our annual customer surveys (pdf) — people who buy offsets are people who are already making lifestyle changes to lower their carbon footprints.

We haven’t surveyed last year’s Earth Hour participants, of course, but I would bet that the vast majority of people who bother to participate in Earth Hour do it because it’s a statement that lines up well with their broader lifestyle. They might think of it as something fun, even celebratory. And you know what? That is OK.

So this Earth Hour, turn off the lights and enjoy the companionship of a billion people around the world who, by participating in this simple gesture, are saying, with you, “Hey, I care about this too.” After all, it’s only by getting the great mass of humanity on board that we’re going to dock the climate change ship safely.

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erik

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  1. NatureAdvice - March 24, 2009

    Thanks for promoting Earth Hour! Another way you can recruit people to the cause is by creating a Earth Hour group on Commit21.com. Simply create a group about one action that you will commit to do for Earth Hour and recruit your friends, family, and co-workers to get involved in that action as well. When it comes to climate change, simple actions can make huge differences and Commit21 leverages social media to influence networks of friends, family, and co-workers. Check it out at http://www.commit21.com

  2. EcoBaltimore - March 25, 2009

    Is this date correct? Do not want to miss Earth Hour.

  3. Adam Stein - March 25, 2009

    The date is correct, but I screwed up the day of the week in the headline. It’s fixed now, but please make note. Earth Hour is on Saturday, March 28. I’ve updated the headline, and apologies for any confusion.

  4. 2wheeler - March 25, 2009

    I think Earth Hour is a sham and a waste, a real crock. Turning off the air conditioning in March is silly.
    What matters is what each person does the other 364 days and 23 hours per year. Take an hour each week to actually pursue energy efficiency and make it count!!
    Turning everything off (it’s all or nothing, right?) reinforces a mistaken notion that impossible sacrifices are needed to save the planet. Like those who consider saving the economy vs. saving the planet, it is a fraud. Dick Cheney exemplified this when he claimed we’d have to go back to living in cave dwellings with itchy sweaters and cold showers if the eco-freaks are in charge.
    Yes, retrofit your lighting, heating and air conditioning, and insulation. Update your transportation choices by doing more biking and bus riding. Adapt the locations of housing, work and school to permanently reduce your carbon footprint.
    The solstice “candle night” observations (originating in Japan) seem much more meaningful and thoughtful for those pursuing real global consciousness for change with the lights and gadgets turned off for an evening.

  5. Anonymous - March 25, 2009

    “If you

  6. Monty - March 25, 2009

    That is a funny concept to be eating out at 8:30pm at night and asking the restaurant to turn out the lights. Sure, the couple watts of light is a nice symbolic gesture, but really they need to address the thousands of watts being used in the kitchen to make your meal.
    I appreciate the sentiment in this and certainly will participate, but I have to also agree with those saying it is nonsense that ultimately may do nothing but give the green movement a bad name.

  7. richard schumacher - March 25, 2009

    My house uses 100% wind power. We’re leaving the lights on to demonstrate that privation is not required.

  8. Heather - March 25, 2009

    I participated in this last year with my daughters, then 5 and 8. It was truly meaningful for them. They realized how simple it was to go without using electricity for an hour and from there came up with ideas on how we could use less energy during the other parts of the day and in other areas of our lives.
    We walked to a local park and saw other families along the way who were also participating. Sometimes you feel like if you’re the only one who’s bothering to make lifestyle changes, then it won’t make a difference. Seeing all those other people who felt the same way renewed my desire to make a difference because I realize that others are changing, too.
    So for those who can’t find value in this celebratory day: sure it doesn’t make a real dip in your total energy consumption, but if it gets you thinking and talking to others about ways you can save energy and strengthens your commitment as you know you’re in good company, then as I see it it’s a win for everyone.

  9. Bob Meredith - March 25, 2009

    If enough people do this then power plants will have to power down and then back up in just one hour. The expense and possible waste of energy to do this seems contradictory of the goal. Not to mention the spike in demand as people who postpone running the dishwasher or the heater, etc. now turn them on all at once. I agree with a previous writer that there are more meaningful ways to cut energy use.

  10. Amy - March 25, 2009

    I think it works as a Great Idea, just in the fact that it makes people (who are so dependent) on everything we use that is plugged in.
    ex: cell phone charger, lights, air conditioner, electric baseboard heat, electric hot water heater, electric washing machine, electric dryer, bathroom exhaust fan, microwave, electric stove, lamps, TV, Stereo, Computer, Computer Printer, Cordless house phones, and so forth.
    It will also help the so-techno-dependent society realize that EVERYTHING they use IS powered by Electric, Gas, Oil, or Coal.
    Children will learn during that hour that, “hey? You know what, there is nothing easy to do without it.” — well, not true. Family time, reading, board games, playing sports….the old fashioned stuff.
    It is just a way to get people to think. That’s all.
    It may not actually save energy, since most will go back to their usual lifestyle of Plugged-in-like-the-Jones’s.
    Not everyone is an Ed Begley that goes to extremes, but an exellent one at that. But if most people were determined to do a few major changes, it would do some good!
    Get kids playing the old fashioned way. Get people interacting & thinking the old way. You don’t need batteries or electric to have some fun. You might find that the old stuff was loads of fun.
    This is a way to just get the cognitive juices working, and hopefully, get people started down the right path.
    You don’t have to do 1,000 or 200,000 drastic life changes. Just try doing 5.

  11. Katie L - March 25, 2009

    I totally agree with you about Earth Hour’s wrong approach. I have been quite the greenie but Earth Hour is just one of those things that doesn’t give the right message. It’s just something trendy to do and some other initiative would be far more likely to actually sustain long-term and realistic behaviour change.

  12. Ed - March 25, 2009

    Richard:
    I’ve seen a few of your posts about your use of wind power. Could you elaborate? Was it expensive to set up? Complicated? Where do you live? Any objection from neighbors?
    Bravo to you.

  13. P-dub - March 26, 2009

    I see many benefits to Earth Hour.
    Obviously there will be less pollution emitted from the lower demand for electricity. One hour across the globe will aggregate into a substantial savings of coal and natural gas.
    There is a very visual effect from buildings going dark. People that are not aware of Earth hour will take notice and wonder what is going on. This may impact their awareness to become more conscience of energy use.
    When the community comes together for a common cause this shows that we could actually work together on such an immense problem.
    Earth hour represents a positive step in conservation which will be part of half the solution to global warming.
    Hopefully people will turn there computers off too and read a book by candlelight or LED flashlight

  14. Erik Blachford - March 26, 2009

    One thing I like about Earth Hour is the way it makes people think, and based on these comments it certainly does that.
    Katie L – you are no doubt right that some other initiatives (any ideas, by the way?) might be more impactful, but at the end of the day Earth Hour and things like it are about taking action in addition to other initiatives, not instead of them. That was kind of my point in the post. I suppose it’s possible that there are people who will go to the trouble of turning off their lights, then assume their “green” work for the year is done, but I bet they are rarely seen in the wild.