Earth Hour: York people show support for sustainability

As the world prepares to switch off for Earth Hour tomorrow night, York students, faculty and staff are taking the drive to reduce energy consumption beyond the hour by committing to lasting and sustainable actions.

When the first Earth Hour took place in Australia in 2007, more than two million individuals and 2,000 businesses turned off their lights to spend an hour in darkness to shed light on energy consumption and global warming. During Earth Hour 2010, more than one billion people took part in the global switch off. But what happens beyond Earth Hour?

As with previous years, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the organization behind the global switch off, argues that it is not just Earth Hour that counts, instead it is what people do over the entire year.

Being conscious of energy consumption, making sustainable choices, individual actions and group initiatives such as York University’s Unplug effort and Res Race to Zero do make a difference.

Unplug poster (Electrical wire)Unplug is a pan-University effort to shut down computers, lights, small office or kitchen appliances and other personal electronics before leaving the office every night and before the weekend. This simple gesture can yield tremendous results given that more than 8,000 computers are operated just by York faculty and staff, and together the Keele and Glendon campuses have more than 140,000 internal lights.

Over the February Family Day long weekend, Unplug efforts yielded a 25,198 kilowatt hour reduction in energy consumption with meter readings for the buildings measured showing a total consumption of 523,128 kilowatt hours down from 548,326 kilowatt hours consumed over the 2010 Family Day long weekend.

During the weeks leading up to Earth Hour, students in York’s residences have been actively turning off their lights and unplugging their computers in their residence rooms as part of Res Race to Zero. This year, students in York’s residences are hoping to reduce their energy consumption by more than 30 per cent.

The competition, which began March 1, runs until Monday. Students in the residence with the highest cumulative percentage energy reduction (average kilowatt hour per student) will win $2,000 towards a sustainability initiative of their choice.

For more information on York’s efforts to reduce energy consumption through Unplug and Res Race to Zero, visit the Yorkwise website. For information on reducing your own carbon footprint, visit the Zerofootprint website, which offers a free and easy-to-use carbon footprint calculator.

Earth Hour takes place Saturday night, from 8:30 to 9:30pm.