Plenty to cheer about during York’s Earth Hour celebrations

York is celebrating Earth Hour 2013 and there is plenty to cheer about, including a reduction in energy use at the University.

The event will kick-off Wednesday, March 20, with opening ceremonies beginning at 2:30pm at Michelangelo’s, lower level of EarthHourAtkinson College, Keele campus. Talks, games, poetry, dinner, music and a lantern walk will follow, wrapping up with a closing ceremony at 9pm. Click here for the full schedule.

The good news? York has reduced its annual energy costs and greenhouse gases by more than 20 per cent, according to Brad Cochrane, director of energy management at Campus Services & Business Operations (CSBO). York approved an Energy Performance Contracting Program in 2006 to invest in plant and building system renewal and retrofit projects, which are almost complete, to reduce annual energy costs and greenhouse gases by 25 per cent.

“Results have been very positive, as weather-normalized savings have been calculated at 22 per cent,” says Cochrane. “The project is well along the path to reaching the 25 per cent goal, even with the five per cent campus growth in buildings, and a higher student population.”

For example, 51 buildings across both campuses have had new energy-efficient lighting installed, which has reduced demand by more than 2.3 mW or 2,300 kW.

In addition, York embarked on a pilot project that began January 2012 to save energy during off-times – summer, holidays, weekends EarthHourPosteretc. – with estimated savings of between $83,171 and $118,816 in electricity annually. The first test occurred on the Family Day weekend, targeting 127 building ventilation fans in 19 buildings.

So what did 2012 scheduling achieve? “Nothing less than amazing – absolute year-over-year savings of more than three per cent,” says Cochrane, who will speak at the Earth Hour event at 3pm to share much more about the University’s energy goals and results.

Rob Shirkey, executive director, Our Horizon, will speak at 3:30pm about his organization’s plan to get municipalities to require gasoline retailers to put warning labels on gas nozzles like those found on tobacco packages.

From 4 to 6pm, there will be games, provided by tabling clubs and organizations, or a poetry workshop – Poetic Energy: Writing in a Warming World – in which participants will be asked to reflect on the role of reading and writing poetry in environmental activism, particularly dealing with issues of climate change, social justice and sustainability.

All levels of interest and experience are welcome. There will be an opportunity to share writing at the Earth Hour dinner celebration after the workshop. The Poetry Workshop is run by grad students, under the direction of Faculty of Environmental Studies Professor Cate Sandilands. Click here to sign up.

The tabling groups will include:  Sustainability@YorkU/President’s Sustainability Council’s Student Sub-Committee, the Centre for Human Rights, Regenesis@York, BESSA – Bachelor of Environmental Studies Student Association, Undergraduate Political Science Council and Sustainability & Education Policy Network Project.

Dinner will take place from 6 to 7pm, followed by poetry readings. From 8 to 9pm, there will acoustic music, with a lantern walk led by Regenesis@York and closing ceremonies beginning at 9pm.The acoustic music acts will feature students and the Environmental Music Collective from the Faculty of Environmental Studies.

Earth Hour is sponsored by the Institute for Research & Innovation in Sustainability, Centre for Human Rights, McLaughlin College and Professor Cate Sandilands.

Other Earth Hour events organized this year are:

  • March 22 – The York Earth Hour Show will be held from noon to 2pm in the Accolade East Fine Arts Lobby (across from the Starbucks). There will be businesses on hand to showcase the strides they are making towards sustainability. This event is organized by Professor Jose Etcheverry’s Business and Sustainability: Issues and Strategies course (ENVS 3505).
  • March 23 – Earth Hour Concert will be held from 7:30 to 10:30pm in Vari Hall. There will be bands and other musical performances. During Earth Hour, between 8:30 and 9:30pm, the lights will be turned off and everyone can listen to the acoustic talents of some of the performers. Because it’s such a big space, feel free to bring your own chair, blankets, pillows, towels and friends. The event is organized by Sustainability@YorkU.

For more information, visit the Institute for Research & Innovation in Sustainability website.