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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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