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Question of the Week: Why did or didn’t you observe Earth Hour?

2009 March 30

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

On the evening of Saturday March 28, millions around the world turned off their lights for an hour to demonstrate their awareness of the need to conserve energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Why did or didn’t you observe Earth Hour?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

124 Responses leave one →
  1. njt permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I did observe earth hour. we turned off the lights and played board games by candles. a fun, simple night that was beneficial for the earth. I hope EPA supports and publicizes more efforts like this!

  2. Chuck permalink
    March 30, 2009

    No, it was pointless.

  3. Sven permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I did participate. I support the event, and its messages, but I feel it is inappropriate for a government agency to sponsor or support such an effort with tax payer dollars. I am glad the government is for taking action on global warming, but there are better ways to show it than supporting an NGO’s event. The link from the EPA banner went straight to a page that said donate to WWF. Not my idea of what the governent can and should be sending people to. To a lesser extent it is like having a link to donating to the RNC or the DNC. I care about the environment, and do all I can do, support similar organizations, but I don’t want my government leaning in one direction or another liek this. There are 100′s of events by other organizations that do more than just give a political message to take action. Are you going to link to those?

  4. Roxy Carmichael-Hart permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I did not observe it because I didn’t feel like it.

  5. Dave permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I participated. And I encouraged as many people as I could to do so as well.

    It is very important to get and keep the energy/climate challenge that we face in the forefront of everyones day to day thinking and actions. Any and all efforts to accomplish this, such as Earth Hour, are helpful.

    Keep up the push and keep getting the message out EPA!

  6. GreenStaple permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I did observe Earth Hour. It helped reaffirm the fact that we rely too much on energy and use too much energy. Many times we light 2 or 3 rooms instead just lighting the room we are in. It was both restful and peaceful.

  7. Aditya permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I did observe the Earth Hour with my family.We left our house and had a day out.I fully support this endeavour.I think we should have ‘Earth Hour’ every three months,to cut down massive energy consumption.

  8. Mahinapiha permalink
    March 30, 2009

    We did and we planned to but there was an area wide power outage for about 2 hours – our power company handled it for us! We have not learned why the power went out, the weather was ok. The wide area outage, however, made a lot of people fire up their generators!

  9. Ashley permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I participated by attending an even at a local museum. I wonder though if it really makes a difference if one hour out of the year we turn off the lights? Will that one hour even make that much of a difference to peoples electricity bills for them to understand the financial benefits of conservation? Do people even get the message this event is suppose to be sending about climate change and conservation? I really doubt it. I would hope that next year the focus becomes more on education about conservation rather than having a party to watch some lights turn off. I understand that its suppose to be symbolic of someones committment to reducing our energy usage, but it would be interesting to see if it actually changes anything (i.e. in one month has energy usage actually declined as a result of Earth Hour?).

  10. aef permalink
    March 30, 2009

    we supported it talked and cuddled by candle light

  11. Bonnie Aylor permalink
    March 30, 2009

    My household actually did participate, but not because we chose to participate. Actually, I was not aware that there was an Earth Hour this year, LOL! The advertising really needs more advancement in order to reach the majority of the public. At any rate, we did have our lights turned off around 8:30 pm and they weren’t turned back on until close to 10:00pm. This is because in the evening, when we are done with eating etc, we usually try to use as little lighting as possible in our home to save on electric usage. I was exercising and my child was watching television and the dogs and birds don’t care either way :D. Earth hour is an awesome plan, but we have a routine of no lights every night unless we need them. I am also a college student and half, or more, of my reading material are electronic articles that the professors post online that I download and read from my computer, so even those assignments don’t entail the use of lights, and I use a laptop so it still conserves energy, it only needs to use it when the battery needs recharging, and this LION battery lasts about 4-6 hours depending on the program. We also love the aroma and color one gets from lighting candles so we like to light them, however ever that is usually not necessary in our daily routine. That’s why we get so confused when we get ridiculous electric bills, I think they are strewed…. LOL, we hardly use any at all. We unplug things, don’t use the lights unless it’s necessary, eat as much raw food as possible, and our only outside outlet is on a screened in porch with no exit except through the house. Plus, we use those special twistie looking lights that allow you to use 26 watts of energy and get 100 watts worth of brightness, I think they are hallogen. Conserving electricity is important, the only other thing to work on is enlisting in renewable energy, but we have to own the place in order to do that. Renewable energy is a good alternative because it’s less wasteful and at the same time, you save money and sometimes EARN money through credits with the electric company. There are many many direct and indirect effects of high energy usage, through mining and renewability and chemicals and and air pollution, the list goes on and on.

    Anyway, although it’s late, HAPPY EARTH HOUR!!! :D

  12. Ray permalink
    March 30, 2009

    Well said, Sven.

  13. Randy Payne permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I was not aware of Earth Hour. If I had known, I would have supported the effort. In the future, I recommend better public awareness/education so that more people can get involved. I think people want to help protect the environment, but generally don’t know the best way. I think we (and EPA) need better Public Education efforts.

  14. Jean permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I had intended to, but as it turned out we were not home.

  15. Patti Cox permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I did observe Earth Hour and was happy to do it. I hope every gov. building in the country also observed Earth Hour. Why only have it once a year–why not once a month–maybe to get in the habit.

  16. Bill O. permalink
    March 30, 2009

    My family observed the earth hour, and it gave us a chance to talk to our teen-aged son, who is usually a moving target. We all enjoyed hanging out by candle light, and would consider doing it more often. My only disappointment is that there is apparently no way to track the amount of energy saved — this would make the event a lot more meaningful.

  17. Brenda Rosenthal permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I did participate.nd sent out a nte to my shpere of influence asking them to consider……….it felt like a small thing to do to show support for a Greener world……………..thanks for offering it……….

  18. March 30, 2009

    I’ve done a lot of reading and research on global warming/climate change; and I’m convinced it’s a non-issue. Climate cycles are normal for the earth, and I believe what we’re experiencing is nothing more than that. Scientists are coming forward literally by the hundreds to say there is no such thing as man-made global warming. A British judge ruled there’s not one shred of scientific evidence to support Al Gore’s apocalyptic scenario. And the founder of the Weather Channel, along with thousands (no exaggeration) of scientists, are planning a law suit against Al Gore. (Gore even plagiarized glacier scenes for his movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” They’re not even real – they’re 100% computer-generated.) So I don’t want to participate in pulling the wool over people’s eyes.

  19. Andrea permalink
    March 30, 2009

    We did observe Earth Hour. We turned off all the lights, lit some candles and talked. It was very theraputic. We did this, because it’s imporatant to care about the evironment and raise awarness. I told friends and encouraged them to participate as well.

  20. Jeff permalink
    March 30, 2009

    We participated, my 13 year old daughter took the initiative. In response to two other comments, I think it is governments role to support these kinds of activities as well as others. If no else is stepping up to the plate then it is governments obligation to get the ball rolling (then step back).

    Why is it pointless to save energy, resources, money? I think maybe you were missing the point?

  21. Stan Robinson-Phoenix, AZ permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I observed “Earth Hour”!

    I’ve heard this quote so many times: “Save planet Earth”. I’m of the mindset of save humanity. Whatever we do to the Earth, it will adjust, and when it does, at the rate we’re going, we won’t be able to live on it.

    Sometimes mankind has to be motivated for selfish reasons to do the right thing…

  22. Nancy Caroli permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I observed Earth Hour for the second year. Last year I sat in the dark for one hour thinking about what it would be like to live without electricity. It was a VALUABLE lesson for me. I have been trying to use less electricity and my electric bill shows that since 2005, I have reduced my electricity use at home by 35%.
    This year when I turned off the power to my house, two lights remained on. They were the $40 solar landscape lights that I have in my kitchen and dining room. The solar panels are mounted outside the window and the cord runs in through the windowframe. I’m able to close the window on top of the cord. The lamps are located inside the house near the window. They don’t provide as much light as a standard lamp, but they provide background lighting. I used a third solar lamp to light up my journal and I wrote down my thoughts and my goals for Earth Hour 2010.
    I will add 2 more solar lamps, this time in the living room. I have purchased a $65 hot water heater timer that I still need to install. I plan to set the timer to run for a half hour during the morning and evening. The rest of the time the electric water heater will be off. That should save about $10 per month.

  23. Michalene permalink
    March 30, 2009

    We did observe earth hour most of that evening. We did have a friend stop by so we had lights in one room for a while (I have asthma so the candle idea doesn’t work). The problem with ideas like this is that people think that doing this once a year makes a difference. Unless they are doing things every day – changing their habits on how they use energy – there is no chance that it will make a difference. We need earth hour to be every hour. To use energy wisely and really make a difference. MIT recently had a workshop on the the energy sources of the future. Despite the displays of solar and wind energy – the conference focussed on coal fired generation because Americans won’t change their energy usage habits. Electric utilities only provide what is demanded for energy – they only burn the coal and gas that is needed for the energy we want. It’s our responsibility. I support wind and solar as well as other renewables – but who among us wants electricity 35% of the time (if we are lucky). It begins at home!!!

  24. Dwayne permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I once heard that what you practice everyday is your faith, the rest is religious froth. The same is true of our stewardship of the earth. I work everyday to improve the environment. Splashy PR events do not impress me.

  25. Jeffrey Levy permalink*
    March 30, 2009

    Thanks for your thoughts, Sven. We always try to balance public good against appearing to endorse specific organizations, and I’m sorry we failed to meet your expectations in this case. We did link to the Earth Hour page, not to WWF’s home page, and we thought the much larger portion of the page focused on the message about energy usage awareness was the main point.

    As for other organizations and other messages, if they make sense, we may well link to them. I’d welcome your sharing your ideas for such links.

    Thanks again for letting us know your opinion!

    Jeffrey Levy
    EPA Director of Web Communications

  26. Jon permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I heard about Earth Hour, but knew I was going to be out anyways. It’s a good idea, but it’s a better idea to conserve rather than the extreme of turn off and on. All my light bulbs in my apartment are CFLs and I have one of those automatic smart-plugs that clicks off when my computer is off…which has saved me about $6 a month on my electric bill (even though they cost about $30). If you think about it, during the week, my lights are only ON for about 6 hours each day and OFF for 18 hours per day.

  27. Jon permalink
    March 30, 2009

    Yes, I agree (as an environmental scientist). Climate cycles are normal for the earth. However, we humans, animals, plants, etc all have an effect on the environment, positive and negative. Yes, everything we do has an affect. Landfills. Wastewater treatment plants. Wind Power. Nuclear & Coal Plants. Driving our cars/SUVs/trucks/back-hoes/electric-cars all has an affect, and we can choose to try to “live better” and be more earth/environmentally friendly minded OR we can do nothing. I personally think that the “do nothing” option is a poor choice. It’s the same idea as teaching children about saving money for the future. Al Gore is an extremist, he only focused on PART of the story. You can make statistics say anything you want. I don’t think the earth is going to melt anytime soon. I do think that most of the glaciers will melt regardless of what I do, BUT that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up trying to reduce my impact. That’s just my opionion.

  28. Knute permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I could not participate as I was traveling during that time period, but my roomate at home did. He was calling family and friends to get them to join in. I think this is a very good thing obviously not for the one-time energy savings but to send the signal to our leaders that there is support for doing inconvenient or difficult things. I fear that our political system ensures that leaders cannot advocate for such things unless or until there is a crisis. The inertia of the sheer number of humans along with our complex behaviors, cultures and norms means that by the time a majority is directly affected enough to demand change it may be too late to avoid catastrophic consequences. Efforts to enlarge or make more visible or vocal the current minority who are willing to act are badly needed especially given the power of so many entrenched interests that will resist needed change.

  29. Anonymous permalink
    March 30, 2009

    Although we support the goals and objectives of Earth Hour, we did not participate because of recent home burglaries in our community. In other words, we were simply afraid to turn off the lights.

    S. Marie

  30. krista permalink
    March 30, 2009

    We did observe the hour by turning off our lights, however, we typically do that in the evening anyway and use candles. For the next earth hour event may I recommend that you also ask people to turn off their TV’s as well? Now that would really send a message and maybe make people realize that there are alternatives to just sitting like zombies each night in front of a TV…like reading!
    Glad to see the EPA supporting this effort!
    P.S. This is in response to the message above from P: Global Warming is real and I majored in Geology so I think I have an education to support that statement. I have no idea what scientists he is talking about that do not support the belief. Likely they are ones that are being paid well not to support it. Ask the ones that are not being paid by an organization that does not want people to know the truth and you will find a different opinion.

  31. Troy Fowler permalink
    March 30, 2009

    We partially observed Earth Hour. While it was an interesting event for people, I’m not sure that the planners envisioned how 10% of people totally dropping demand and then suddenly resumed demand is very dangerous for a power grid. Dams and nuclear power plants don’t turn on a dime without 1) wasting a lot of potential energy 2) without some degree of damage.

    In our city, shortly after the the hour was up, we observed an apparent surge that caused our computer backup power supplies to drop off the grid and go to battery about 10 seconds.

  32. Dvd (name shortened for efficiency) permalink
    March 30, 2009

    C’mon!!! The Villanova game was on….the Sabres game was on. You think I dropped a Grand on an HDTV just to turn it off? I consider that I SAVED energy by NOT jumping into a car and driving 5 miles to support a bar that has 100 non-EnergyStar TVs all tuned to one event.

  33. Dillon permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I respectly disagree. It actually saved quite a lot of energy. I also think it gave the people an idea of what saving energy is like and hopefully put it into their minds so hopefully we can have more of these. More and more of these days could hopefully reduce amount of buring coal production and help turn around the process of global warming.

  34. Frank Monachello, Lansdale, PA permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I was already out of the house at that time and house was dark; the retailer I went to was not observing it, which is good because it was a bookstore in which many people needed light to read the latest books on energy efficiency and lowering our carbon footprint.

    The effort was commendable, however the Global Environmental Movement and the Public Sector should combine their efforts to use TV to provide more practical advice (during high rating shows – e.g. American Idol or the Celebrity Dancing Show) to citizens throughout the world about choices they can make every day that are more environmentally conscious and sustainable with an easy to remember website link for more details; the planet’s survival depends on us changing old habits and developing new behaviors on a global scale; this will take cultural re-education; and who better to do it than the publicly owned national airwaves using popular role models to deliver the messages during popular mass media events?

  35. Corrado12 permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I heard about it awhile back, but never heard much until it was over, I would have liked to participate but maybe next time it will be published in the paper or on the news to remind eveyone before hand, unless I just overlooked it, could be the case too. It’s a good effort but years too late, they should’ve been worrying about this before the 2000′s hit!

  36. Jimmy permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I do not believe in the “green” revolution so I started all 3 of my one ton trucks and let them idle for a hour while I read the book John Adams, you know, one of our founding fathers that helped write the Declaration of Independence. I also hope all of you will host a tea party on tax day, April 15th, to protest Obama selling our country down the tubes. We have 3 planned in our area and are looking to get more by then. Also buy Fords, they did not take the bail-out money that Chevrolet did.

  37. Chris permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I used to work for a power company. All power companies need to be able to handle surges in demand, which is why power companies have a mix of base load turbines and peak load turbines. The difference between the two is how tight the tolerance is between the turbine blades and the outer casing.

    Base load turbines have very little tolerance and are highly efficient. Those are the ones that you spin up to speed and leave running. In contrast, peak load turbines have a larger gap between the turbine blade and outer shell – they are not quite as efficient, but you can ramp their production up and down as necessary to keep the power grid balanced.

    In a properly designed system, yesterday’s event could be handled without any damage to any of the systems. It should be of little surprise that power companies keep an eye on what events will be occurring that are likely to change the amount of load on the system, and although I no longer work for a power company, I can pretty much guarantee that they were aware of it and had planned for it.

    The basic turbine concept is shared across almost all of the energy production platforms (coal, natural gas, nuclear, geothermal), and a properly designed system will absorb demand changes in the load with those peaker plants. Hydro is a bid different than the typical turbine, but the basic premise is the same. (For brevity, I will skip solar and wind.)

    The short answer is that I don’t expect that any damage resulted. Yes, there would be some fairly negligible efficiency losses which cuts against some of the power saved, but the largest impact I could see on the power production industry is that breaks were shuffled around a bit so that everyone was on shift at the time that power dropped off, and again at the end of earth hour (which was probably a more gradual climb than the initial drop in power).

    I hope that helps.

  38. Dillon permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I think Earth Hour was an wonderful idea and a great success. Me, my mom,dad,brother, and sister all sat down and played a fun game of monopoly. We mostly used are fireplace for heat and light along with a few scattered candles. It gave a very cozy feeling and it was fun having the whole family together. We usually dont have alot of those moments. I think it would be great to have more and more of these, over time. But one thing is I dont think this great event was publisized enough. My mom works for Enviormental Protection Agency and she didnt find out until a few days before. But overall i extremely enjoyed Earth Hour and cant wait to look for ones coming up in the future. Sinecerley, Dillon Leovic

  39. Chris permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I am a chemical engineer who formerly worked for the power industry. I have studied atmospheric chemistry and I have discussed climate change with several of the self professed climate skeptics.

    I am only aware of one climate skeptic who claimed there was not a man-made impact (and he has since died). What the others are saying is that there is a minimal impact due to anthropogenic activities. They do not claim that there is not an impact, as the science that explains how and why greenhouse gases function is fairly basic and well established. What the climate skeptics actually state boils down to a belief that there is a balancing function that effectively returns our planet to baseline, and point to normal climate cycles as proof of concept.

    Beside the rather vague nature of the idea, there is a fallacy in using the historical record for normal variability to claim this is just normal variability, while ignoring the fact that we have not had this much CO2 in our atmosphere at any time in the past 760,000 years. We are running outside of normal operating parameters.

    You stated that thousands of scientists and the founder of the Weather Channel are planning a lawsuit against Al Gore. Can you point to a reliable source for this data? Not only do I have significant doubts that thousands(!) of credible scientists would sign up for such a lawsuit, I cannot even come up with a plausible legal theory under which they could file such a lawsuit without being tossed out of court under Rule 11(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. If you have such a source, I would love to see it.

  40. Anonymous permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I don’t believe in your nonsense. It’s all an expensive rip-off.

  41. Jess permalink
    March 30, 2009

    I don’t observe Earth Day hour because I prefer to save energy and water on a regular basis where I can, rather than sacrifice only one hour a year.

  42. Tim Gulden permalink
    March 30, 2009

    Earth hour…I just didn’t know about it. If I had…I probably would have done it. I am however going to do a whole house electricity audit to see where I can cut down my electricity usage year round.

  43. Beth permalink
    March 30, 2009

    We did observe Earth Hour. We turned off the tv, our computers, and unplugged all unnecessary appliances. We lit some candles, and talked. It was so engaging that we actually wound up talking for not just an hour, but an hour and a half! I felt that it was important to remind ourselves that we don’t need to spend energy to be entertained. It is also important to make a statement to the politicians and lawmakers that the environment is important, and that we are serious about wanting change.

    I was saddened to read the comments posted by readers on many new stories about Earth Hour about people who were “protesting” by turning all their lights on. I thought that it was pointlessly rude and demonstrated a lack of respect for both the environment, and for society in general.

  44. kristianna permalink
    March 30, 2009

    Although I believe in principle on the need to be energy wise and the need for energy conservation, it believe that just turning off ones lights does not address the long term issues. Energy is the number one issue of this century. I live in an apartment building where the lights are on 24 hours a day seven days, then I think of all of the buildings that have the same (multiply this a thousand or a million times), and what do you get? What good is turning off a thousand lights if a million, or a billion, are still turned on? What good is a new electric system if the delivery system is outdated and inadequate. Most housing in the major cities are from the 1950′s. or earlier. The process of education does begin with such things as turning off ones lights, if you have lights to turn off, but it is just a step in a long journey. The bigger picture is the nature of the modern city and the infrastructure that supports human life. All cities are based on an older and that is not adequate for how we live today. Can we create a new city for the new era of the twenty-first century? Maybe creating a new energy and electric grid and delivery system is where Obama should go, and maybe were there the world should go; together. Who will build the first ecological city that will be the for the next generation? One giant step for man kind.

  45. Matt permalink
    March 31, 2009

    Global Warming, or climate change, due to CO2 emissions is an unscientific claim. People who say otherwise are misinformed or misled.

  46. Matt permalink
    March 31, 2009

    I didn’t observe the hour because I thought it was more important to see the people I was eating with and because there is no reliable, unbiased Global Warming science out there. There just isn’t. We are being deceived!

  47. Used Car Dealers permalink
    March 31, 2009

    On the Earth Hour, we celebrated it as an special time. We switched off all electrical appliances and gathered in the hall and have a talk for more than a hour about the environment and discussed for the sake of greenery. We thought for planting the green revolution around us for making the environment better.

  48. Sarah permalink
    March 31, 2009

    I turned off the lights in my room and unplugged my laptop but the rest of my family kept their lights on. Hopefully next year I can convience my whole family to participate.

    I participated because I think this is a great idea. If we can use less energy now that means we will have more for our future generations. If only the world could make this more than just an annual event. If only, if only, if only…

  49. Aline permalink
    March 31, 2009

    I didn’t know about it……Earth hour? What a great idea.

  50. Jill permalink
    March 31, 2009

    I didn’t recognize Earth Hour because I was en route to NC. The rest of my family, at home, forgot! I so wanted to participate in this event. Can we try again?

    On the good side, I heard about this event on the TV, from emails from friends, and via other mass media. So, the word IS getting out!

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