As usual I’m not on board with Earth Hour

Earth Hour 2010 is coming up on Saturday March 27th at 8:30 pm. Earth Hour is celebrated annually with everyone who participates turning off their lights for an hour. In 2009, the Earth Hour website notes that hundreds of millions of people around the world participated and did indeed turn their lights off for one hour.

I won’t be celebrating. I never do. Obviously I am into green living, I’m just not on board with Earth Hour and thus far no one has been able to convince me to participate. Frankly I’m barely on board with Earth Day for the same reasons that I’m not celebrating Earth Hour; but more on this in a minute. First let’s learn a little more about the official Earth Hour goal. The Earth Hour website notes the following.

Earth Hour is organized by WWF. With almost 5 million supporters and a global network in over 100 countries, it’s one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations. Earth Hour is a global call to action to every individual, every business and every community throughout the world. It is a call to stand up, to take responsibility, to get involved and lead the way towards a sustainable future. People across the world from all walks of life will turn off their lights and join together in celebration and contemplation of the one thing we all have in common – our planet.

The good of Earth Hour…

  • I like the World Wildlife Fund (Earth Hour organizers) so it’s nice they get this day to gain more support.
  • I like that Earth Hour encourages ideas of ways to spend non-electricity based time with the family.
  • Earth Hour has raised awareness of climate change issues and offers some educational tools and reading guides that are useful.

The not so useful aspects of Earth Hour…

I don’t like holidays or events that celebrate one way of being or acting on a specific day. For example, being nice to your dad on Father’s Day or being eco-friendly on Earth Day. I like a whole lifestyle approach to living. Be nice year round. Be giving year round. Be green year round. Turn off the dang lights daily. You know?

I don’t think the impact matters. Earth Hour states, “New economic modeling (pdf) indicates the world has just five years to initiate a low carbon industrial revolution before runaway climate change becomes almost inevitable. But it can be done, and the long term benefits will be enormous. So now’s the time to take a stand and give world leaders the mandate they need to make the right climate deal.” Um, personally I think that world leaders could give a care about Earth Hour. Not to sound mean, but honestly, if something like Copenhagen was such an abysmal event, how on earth will Earth Hour create change? On a small scale sure, Earth Hour might be a good idea to build awareness for families and individuals, but as the key to convincing world leaders – no.

It doesn’t save all that much energy but it does use plenty – there are Earth Hour tees and tons of other gimmicks associated with this event. For example Time Magazine notes about Earth Hour 2008, “Servers wearing glow-in-the-dark necklaces sold eco-tinis at bars and restaurants in Phoenix. A local yoga house in Michigan offered sessions by lamplight, and the Sheraton Hotel in Chicago arranged check-in by candlelight.” It all feels very markety to me. Plus those glow necklaces not so eco-friendly are they? And like all gear associated with the event, they take energy to make.

I get that the main point is to make a point – i.e. look at us we’re all turning off the lights because we care (look at us politicians) but it just doesn’t add up as long-term meaningful to me. Especially when I meet folks who celebrate Earth Hour but can’t even manage to bring a reusable bag to the grocery store (how does that even out?)

I don’t think it’s utterly useless or lame to participate, I just think that you can make smarter green decisions than simply participating in Earth Hour.

Coming up we’ll look at ten green living choices that make a bigger impact than Earth Hour.

[image via Earth Hour]

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  1. Lynn says

    I totally see your points and they are good ones. However, having been in PR for years, I also know that making people change behaviors rarely happens because of any one event, one lecture, even one mistake. It takes re-hearing the same info over and over and over until it gets through the clutter. To me, the more talk there is, the more efforts, even for a day, to bring attention to important matters, the more likelihood pressure will build on leaders as well as individuals to make changes that count.

    One big no-no for me though is about the commercialization of these events. At the very least, participants on the economic side should be looking at the eco-friendliness of their own behaviors.

    Anyway, thanks as always, for your opinions which always get me thinking!

  2. Jennifer says

    Yeah, many of my friends agree with you, not me. The downside of me not being on board is that I can totally see your point about how an effort, no matter how small can make a difference. Each year people tell me this, and I don’t disagree but personally to celebrate something like this just seems so silly to me. I like small steps. I do think they can make a difference, I’m just more inclined to think that small steps we take personally are the ones that encourage us to make life-long changes – for example not using paper towels or switching to cloth napkins. I think these help more on a long term scale than these small one day events dressed up as grand gestures.

    Maybe I’m jaded from seeing so many people celebrate events like Earth Day or Earth Hour with such gusto but then they fail to even recycle or carry a reusable mug. I’m not perfect by any means, but I think I try in a more realistic way to keep it green with daily small steps vs. the BIG shout out. I know you get that from all the small changes you encourage in Celebrate Green :)


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