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Published on Friday, March 24, 2017

Power down for Earth Hour this Saturday night

Town has been turning 'lights out' for 10 years in global initiative

Power down for Earth Hour this Saturday night
Earth Hour - 60 minutes to raise awareness
By Nathan Howes, Oakville Beaver
Despite some hiccups, Earth Hour has greatly reduced energy consumption in Oakville and has led to more awareness of its impact on climate change.

This is according to the Town of Oakville, an active participant in the initiative, and other environmental programs, to combat climate change locally.

Initially launched in 2007 as a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) effort in Sydney, Australia, Earth Hour has become a global lights-out effort to encourage individuals, businesses and governments to take accountability for their ecological footprint.

For one hour on a single March night every year, from 8:30-9:30 p.m. local time, residents are encouraged to turn off non-essential lights and unplug electronics.

Suggested activities include a candlelight dinner, board games by flashlight, stargazing by the lake or a moonlight stroll, to name a few.

This year’s event takes place tomorrow (Saturday, March 25.)

According to Oakville Hydro and the Town, Oakville’s first Earth Hour in 2008 saw energy consumption drop by 8.2 per cent.

A year later – the peak of the town’s power conservation, to date – there was a 13.3 per cent decrease in consumption, followed by a significantly lower reduction of only 1.7 per cent in 2010.

It’s been up-and-down since then: 3.6 per cent drop in 2011, five per cent decrease in 2012, 2.9 per cent in 2013, 5.3 per cent in 2014, 1.6 per cent in 2015 and 3.7 per cent last year.

Since 2008, the estimated amount of energy saved in Oakville has been about 80 MWh, equivalent to about 1.3 million light bulbs, according to the Town.

This year, Oakville aims to increase participation locally and reduce consumption even further, says Cindy Toth, Oakville’s director of Environmental Policy.

“We would like to issue a challenge again to residents and we would like to set the bar a little higher, if possible, to see if we can get well above the usual five per cent reduction that we’ve seen in the past,” said Toth

“What we are seeing is a general raised consciousness about energy conservations and the actions an individual can take to reduce their energy use over the years.”

Although there have been some years where there has been a decrease in participation, Toth said Earth Hour has been successful as “one collective time” where local action can be shown globally, too.

“This is a global initiative. Even though it’s just for one hour in the year, the message really is…if this is something you can do for one hour, is this not something you can take on and do more often in your life?” asked Toth.

She said the Town builds on Earth Hour as an “important grassroots movement” for individuals and the community to demonstrate collective action.

It uses the single-hour function and other programs as a way to “really reach out” to local residents and businesses.

“In these types of initiatives that support environmental sustainability, the Town operations are only one part of what a community can do to improve the environmental sustainability within,” said Toth.

The Town takes part in Earth Hour by turning off non-essential lights and marquee signs at all facilities and parking lots, where possible without compromising public safety or interfering with services.

Residents are encouraged to share their involvement through social media, which Toth hopes will “spur actions by others,” she said.

People can tweet @townofoakville with the hashtag #ChangeClimateChange or post on the Town’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/TownofOakville/) to show how they’ve participated in Earth Hour.

“There’s an important role every resident plays in addressing things like wasting energy, achieving more energy efficiency. These all relate to things that are very important in our lives,” said Toth.

“Oakville residents have had a relatively steady support for this event. That shows an ongoing commitment to continuing their efforts.”

As well, starting this Saturday, residents can head to the Oakville Public Library Central Branch on Navy Street to learn how to be part of the Earth Hour movement every day and try the “Rock the Bike” pedal-powered bike-charging station.

This will kick off an Earth Month display series at participating Oakville libraries.

“It’s environmental sustainability, it’s improved air quality, it’s addressing climate change, along with saving energy dollars,” said Toth.

In addition to the Town of Oakville, Halton police and the Halton District School Board (HDSB) will be taking part in Earth Hour.

While police staff and their families are encouraged to take part, operations will continue as usual during this hour and public safety and emergency response will not be affected.

Halton police’s commitment to the environment extends beyond Earth Hour and includes day-to-day operations of all facilities, as well as the design and construction of its new, state-of-the-art regional headquarters, due for completion later this year.

The new facility on North Service Road will meet or exceed Halton Region’s Green Building Policy, according to police.

The policy ensures new structures are designed and constructed in an environmental and cost-effective way that emphasizes material and energy efficiency.

On Friday, March 24, HDSB schools throughout the region are teaching students about the environment and incorporate the environment into other subjects such as math, physical education, social Sciences and the arts.

Schools will also turn off and unplug as many electronic devices as possible during the final hour in the day.

Participation in Earth Hour supports HDSB’s continued commitment to implement and sustain environmental education and eco-friendly practices in schools.

Involvement across the globe also continues to grow, as Earth Hour 2016 took place in more than 7,000 cities and towns in 172 countries and territories across all seven continents.

“Energy conservation and environmental stewardship are year-round priorities for the town,” stated Mayor Rob Burton, in a media release.

“Earth Hour reminds us that even small actions can have a big impact on our natural environment. Together we can create a cleaner, greener Oakville.”

Residents, businesses and community groups are encouraged to register their Earth Hour event at earthhour.org.

Besides Earth Hour, the Town holds a number of annual energy conservation and environmental stewardship events and programs for residents to take part in.

Visit oakville.ca for information.

Conservation tips can be found on Oakville Hydro’s website at www.oakvillehydro.com/conservation/conservation-residential-tips.html.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

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