Debrief of UN Climate Change Conference a highlight of today’s Earth Hour symposium

The Ecologically Conscious Organization (ECO), a student group at York, along with the Institute for Research & Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS) will launch their first Earth Hour symposium today to celebrate Earth Hour 2010 at York. Although Earth Hour asks people around the world to switch off their lights on March 27, York is celebrating the event a few days early.

Earth Hour 2010 at York will take place from noon to 8pm with a host of events and speakers, including York environmental studies Adjunct Professor James MacLellan, who will talk about “Environmental Discounting” from noon to 1pm. MacLellan will use a comparative analysis to illustrate why economic discounting – an analysis used to weigh short-term benefits against potential long-term detriments – is controversial when applied to the issue of global climate change.

A United Nations Climate Change Conference debrief by Professor Ellie Perkins of the Faculty of Environmental Studies and Jacqueline Medalye, a PhD student in York’s Department of Political Science, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, will take place from 1 to 2pm. Both talks will take place in 305 York Lanes, Keele campus.

Then from 3 to 4pm, there will be a discussion about “Climate Change & Sustainability at York U” looking at the results of the IRIS Waste Survey and Yorkwise energy projects. From 4 to 5:30pm, all students and faculty are invited to join the Brainstorm on Campus Sustainability event. From 5:30 to 6:30pm, there will be lantern making and from 6:30 to 8pm there will be a de-lighting ceremony and parade, which Regenesis, a grassroots environmental, social justice and humanitarian organization, will also participate in. These events will take place in 519 York Research Tower, Keele campus.

Yorkwise is an ongoing effort by the York community to take action that is ecologically, economically and socially conscious. The goal is part of a $40-million investment to reduce the University’s energy consumption by 25 per cent over five years.

For more information, visit the ECO or IRIS Web sites or the Earth Hour at York U Facebook event page.

Lighting improvements are ongoing at buildings across campus, including upgrades to more energy efficient fluorescent lighting. A lighting retrofit and renewal of the Scott Library has allowed the facility to cut its energy consumption drastically – a savings in the neighbourhood of 1,000 tonnes of carbon. The library’s second floor will also undergo a major facelift as the space is reconfigured into a learning commons, featuring a green retrofit based on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, the gold standard for energy efficient buildings.

The York community is also challenged to decrease energy consumption through the Unplug Initiative, which asks faculty and staff to unplug computers and switch off office equipment before weekends and holidays.

In addition, YorkWise has a list of tips for taking action toward sustainability. Here are a few of them to keep in mind:


  • Flip a switch. Turn off the lights when leaving a room for more than five minutes.
  • If there is a light that everyone forgets to turn off, make a sticker or a sign to hang next to the switch that says "Lights Out!" or "Don’t Forget!"
  • Where possible, use compact fluorescent light bulbs. These bulbs produce the same amount of light by using one quarter of the electricity. Plus, they last for years and years without burning out.
  • Keep light fixtures clean. A cleaner light bulb is a brighter bulb.
  • Check the light schedule in your workspace for switching off lights overnight or for the weekend.
  • Harness the sun. Opening the blinds is a free way to brighten up a room.
  • Help light bulbs last longer. Install dimmers in the kitchen and dining room – it will add ambience while saving energy.


  • Showers save hot water. A typical bath uses approximately 75 litres of hot water, while a five-minute shower (with an efficient showerhead) will use half of that.
  • Take shorter showers and use less hot water. Water heaters account for nearly one quarter of a home’s energy use. Set the water heater temperature to no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Use only what is needed. Fill the kettle with the amount of water needed and only run the dishwasher/laundry when there is a full load.


  • Take advantage of the weather and use a clothesline or drying rack to dry clothes.
  • Look for Energy Star Appliances.
  • Flip the Energy Saver Switch. Implement the energy saving features on the computer – this can save $25 to $75 per year in energy costs. Or simply turn the computer and monitor off when they’re not in use. Sixty per cent of the power used by a computer is used by the monitor.
  • Unplug it. Unplug all infrequently used electronics (printer, fax, TVs, DVD players, VCRs, cellphone chargers) to keep them from using electricity when they’re not in use.

Heating and Cooling

  • Keep it down. Change the thermostat settings to 78 degrees Fahrenheit during warmer months and 68 degrees Fahrenheit during cooler months. Doing so will lower heating and air conditioning use.
  • Close it. Keep doors and windows closed during hot or cold periods. If your space is mechanically ventilated, you will be provided with conditioned, filtered, fresh air already.
  • Turn down the air conditioning. Peak summer loads cause the worst pollution and contribute to brownouts.
  • Maintain your equipment. Dirt and neglect are the most common causes of equipment failure. Clean or change the furnace filter once a month (or as recommended by the manufacturer).
  • Install a programmable thermostat. Used properly, this little gadget can save you as much as $150 a year in energy costs.

For more tips or information, visit the Yorkwise Web site.