Turned On About Turning Off
Welcome to the first entry in EPA's first Earth Day blog. We are launching a day before the start of Earth month to write about the success of Earth Hour this weekend. I was excited to be invited to a party at Chicago's Navy Pier to watch the city's stunning skyline go dark as part of the largest voluntary power down in history. If you are in the dark about Earth Hour, it was a worldwide event to raise awareness about climate change and reducing energy use. The global event was organized by World Wildlife Fund with the help of local sponsors. EPA Region 5 was a supporter of Earth Hour Chicago.
On Saturday, twenty-five international flag ship cities around the world joined in turning off lights for one hour from 8 to 9 p.m. local time. Millions of people expressed their concern about climate change by switching off lights and electrical appliances. In Chicago, local utility and Earth Hour sponsor ComEd estimated a five percent drop in energy consumption compared with the previous Saturday.
See a photo gallery of Earth Hour around the world.
At Navy Pier, Mayor Daley's Chief Environmental Officer Sadhu Johnston led the count down as lights on the popular tourist attraction, including the 16,000 lights on its giant Ferris wheel, were switched off. Sears Tower, the tallest building in America, became a black shadow against the lighter night sky. Chicago landmarks such as the John Hancock building, Wrigley Building, Soldier Field, the marquee at Wrigley Field, and marquees in the Loop theater district also went dark. Watch the lights go out in Chicago
The home of EPA's regional office, the Metcalfe Federal Building, was one of 127 Federal buildings in six states that turned off lights. Many downtown office buildings saved energy all weekend because lights had been dimmed on Friday as tenants left for the weekend. Some building managers reported that participating in Earth Hour helped them find ways their buildings could reduce energy use on a regular basis.
The lively Navy Pier Earth Hour Viewing Party was attended by notables from WWF and sponsoring organizations including EPA Regional Administrator Mary Gade.
With major buildings darkened, an unexpected bonus of celebrating Earth Hour at Navy Pier was a rare sight -- clear views of the stars in the sky over the lake. Thanks to volunteers from the Adler Planetarium – including EPA employee Carmen Maso – who set up a telescope outside, party guests experienced the thrill of seeing Saturn. It turns out that those grade school maps of the solar system were pretty accurate.
We all know that one hour is not enough to change the world and stop climate change, but maybe it's enough to change people's thinking and to start changing behavior. Calculate your personal carbon footprint and learn how to reduce it
Phillippa Cannon works in EPA Region 5's Office of Public Affairs and represented EPA on the Earth Hour Chicago Steering Committee.