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March 31, 2008

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. Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer

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.  Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer

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 Link to EPA's External Link Disclaimer

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.

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Comments

Last week, I recieved an unexpected call from friends inviting us to an "Earth Hour" party on Saturday, March 29. I thought it was a great idea (and as an excellent reason to party)! Guests arrived at our hosts darkened house in Northbrook, Illinois at 8:00 and were welcomed by candlelit luminaries lining the sidewalk. Inside, the house was aglow in candlelight. Refreshments had all been prepared earlier in the day, so no appliances were necesary. Guests enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere, and discussed the implications of the occasion. Many indicated that, if not for the party, they would have let the hour go unrecognized. People realized, through this one simple event, how easy it can be to reduce energy usage and help lessen our impact on global warming. As the clock struck 9:00 our hosts announced that we could hit the lights, crank the stereo and turn on the big screen. Everyone was oppposed in favor of basking in the canlelight a bit longer. An exception was made for the coffee maker, necessary to brew the java to accompany the delicious desserts. Thanks to our good friends, Bill and Ruth, for doing their part to heighten awareness of climate change and energy usage.

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