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The Power of Darkness: Lights out for Earth Hour

aerial view of U.S at nighttime with all the lights
United States Light Pollution

The History of Earth Hour

The global movement organized by WWF (World Wildlife Fund) known as Earth Hour started in Sydney Australia in 2007. In the very first year 2.2 million people participated in turning off non-essential lights for one hour. In 2008, the participation spread to 35 countries and reached 50 million people, business, and landmarks including the Golden Gate Bridge and the Colosseum. The original message of this movement was to spread awareness that people were worried about the state of the environment. It has since held onto that original call for environmentally responsibility but also to inspire change. Following participation in Earth Hour there have been documented changes worldwide from banning of plastic bags to protected areas of land and even climate positive legislation.

oil refinery
Refining Limited Resources

You might be asking how turning off the lights for an hour can really make a difference for the planet. I was asking the same questions once too. The truth is that the biggest impact is not the moment of darkness but the light that is shed on the real issues like deforestation, pollution, and the rising climate temperatures. From the awareness comes courses of action that create stepping stones to a sustainable future. Turning off the lights and unplugging globally for one hour also has shown increases in interest towards environmental change. World spread awareness like this and has a positive impact worldwide on energy consumption which in its decrease also decreases the burning of fossil fuels in power plants trying to keep up with demand.

The Impact Breakdown

Many of the changes inspired from the collective effort of singular people reach very large organization that have the power to create bigger changes. We however can continue to expand on our hour of darkness throughout the year. Lets center our focus on electricity consumption since that's what started this whole movement. The EIA calculated the average US residential household used 899 kWh per month which is equivalent to 800.11 pounds of CO2 at a rate of 0.89 pounds of CO2 per kWh. INSANE! This electricity usage breaks down to about 29-31 kWh per day so lets use 30 as our number here.

One 40 watt light bulb uses 0.04kWh per hour. In my home, only counting lightbulbs and not appliances, I have at least 30 lightbulbs. I am sure I missed a few. If every light was on for 1 hour that's 1.20kWh and 1.068 pounds of CO2. Its unlikely every single light would be on in my home at the same time but this is just an example of the impact that turning the lights off can really have. Now if you take into account the kWh that TVs use, or ovens, vacuums, chargers, etc. then its substantially higher.

Making Changes

Don't worry, we have a few simple ways to help you reduce your household electricity related CO2 emissions. The first is simple, turn off lights not in use. It sounds silly but sometimes I just use the flashlight feature on my phone when I need to run into a room real quick because I know I will likely leave and forget to turn off the light otherwise. If you are

forgetful about turning off lights then try using a timer. If the light is plugged into the wall like for a fish tank there are adjustable timers that can turn it on and off for you at just the right times. There are also some light fixtures that can be remotely turned off with smart home devices but I personally have no experience with them and if they consume more or less energy. Unplug appliances when not in use. Even if you are not using your microwave, its using electricity. sure, its a small amount but its something. You don't have to go crazy with it but areas that you can unplug when your not using them I would recommend doing. Lastly, as your lightbulbs or appliances life span comes to an end you might consider looking into a more energy efficient replacement. Consuming less energy per hour will help you cut not only your electric bill down, but also your emissions! Sometimes certain energy efficient household purchases can also be used as tax breaks.

Light Pollution

The effects of reducing artificial light is also important for light pollution. When I say light pollution I am not actually taking about the carbon emission from its production but rather the actual light being emitted into the sky. This light not only can block our view of the stars, but can actually disrupt the biological wellbeing of all living things. Our circadian rhythms are actually dramatically effects by light and darkness. The disruption of our sleep patterns can lead to quite a few alarming health issue such as depression, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease to name a just few. Animals in nature are also effected by the changes in light. At night time when your home and its dark outside, you can close your blinds and curtains to help filter or block light from leaving your windows and/or use a dimmer lighting when you can.

Saturday are usually days that I am traveling too and from for events and it would be rather unsafe if I turned off the lights while driving so our participation in Earth Hour might be delayed. Regardless, I sincerely hope you will consider tuning in on March 23rd from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm to unplug and turn off all non-essential lights to participate in Earth Hour.


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