Earth Hour: Lights out everybody, for global energy conservation

Chicago (IL) – One hour without any electricity. Do you think Earth is ready for it? Well that’s the question that will be asked and answered as this year’s Earth Hour is expected to draw global participation. Individuals and companies are urged to turn off their lights, PCs and cell phones for one hour on Saturday with major technology companies participating.

At 8:30pm on Saturday in everyone’s respective time zone, individuals all over the world will shut off their lights for an entire hour. The hour has been deemed Earth Hour. Organized by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the event hopes to draw one billion participants. Currently, 84 countries have responded to the WWF that they will be participating. The purpose of the event is to draw awareness for energy conservation, as the WWF is concerned about global warming’s impact on humans and wildlife.

“With Earth Hour, millions of people from all walks of life will demonstrate their commitment to take action on climate change,” said WWF CEO Carter Roberts in a statement. “Turning off the lights is just the beginning. We’re asking everyone to also make commitments to reduce their energy use during the rest of the year and to ask their elected representatives to do the right thing because we need climate legislation now.”

Individuals in locations close to major world landmarks — including Acropolis, the Eiffel Tower, The London Eye Ferris wheel, The Pyramids of Egypt- Giza, Niagara Falls, The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., The Golden Gate Bridge, The Las Vegas Strip, The Saint Louis Gateway Arch, New York City’s Broadway theater signs, Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building — will see that these locations will also go dark.

IT firms are participating this year. The BlackBerry manufacturer, Research in Motion, has launched a special website accessible through certain Blackberry devices to support the event. If you own a Blackberry Bold, Storm, Curve, Curve 8900, 8800 or a Pearl you will have access to the site, which lets you access all news, and videos relating to the event (content not available for non-Blackberry users).

Belkin International issued a memo to businesses and individuals notifying them that they could be saving more electricity by turning off more devices. “Whether the lights are on or off, standby power is using more electricity than you realize and contributing to your personal greenhouse gas emissions,” the statement reads. “Standby power, also called vampire power, phantom load or leaking electricity, refers to the electric power consumed by appliances while turned off but still plugged into a power outlet.”

The majority of our electricity is produced from the burning of fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal, a processes which emits carbon dioxide believed by many to be a key greenhouse gas which has been linked to global warming. Utilizing solar and wind energy would reduce emissions, but they are not currently utilized on a broad enough scale — due to high costs.

On the long-term, individuals are urged to unplug their unused devices or turn them off, and to also replace battery-powered devices (like rechargeable razors and cordless phones) with corded alternatives. This reduces the amount of standby power needed to charge the battery and reduces the lost energy during battery charging and discharging due to power conversion inefficiencies.

The WWF is also urging small businesses to participate as well. Business owners can register their “Vote for Earth” on the Earth Hour Website, which will then list those companies as active participants. Small businesses are urged to turn off decorative lighting, and power down non-essential electrical components.

Another great way for businesses to participate is to share the event with employees and customers by placing signs in the windows and by sharing the news.

Earth Hour first debuted in 2007 as an event for Sydney, Australia. At that time, the WWF estimated two million people turned off their lights. In 2008, the event grew to 370 cities with an estimated 50 million in participation, having turned off their lights. In 2009, it has already expanded to over 84 countries and may reach one billion people.