Campus Challenge encourages Earth Hour shutdown

(Edmonton) What will you be doing when the lights go out?

This Saturday, Earth Hour will be an opportunity for people everywhere to brighten the earth’s environmental future by going off the grid for one hour. That’s no lights. No smartphone. No widescreen TV and no iPod. Whether at home or in rez, the University of Alberta’s Office of Sustainability is asking you to pledge your support and join in the Campus Challenge.

Lisa Dockman, a sustainability program lead, says that a dozen institutions across the province, including the U of A, are vying for the title of the campus amassing the most pledges. The winner is the campus with the highest percentage of students, staff and faculty signing up and shutting down between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. this Saturday night. Aside from bragging rights for the institution, there are prizes up for grabs to those who make the pledge.

Dockman says it’s a chance for everyone to take a leadership role in recognizing our dependence on energy—and seek ways to reduce it, even if only for an hour.

“One of best things about going through that process is that you realize how dependent you are on electricity and stored-energy devices,” she said. “The World Wildlife Fund (the event’s patron) encourages people to turn off all non-essential lights and electronics—which for the average person is quite a few.”

Campus pride on the line

Dockman said that last year’s winner, King’s University College, had 25 per cent of their institution pledge. At the U of A, more than 1,300 people signed up. She says the participation from Lister Hall is tremendously helpful for campus numbers. It has even spurred a residential rivalry for which tower can go darkest, with the winners receiving a pizza party.

Beyond participating for the good of the cause, Dockman notes another reason to get involved.

“We’ve come out above them the last three years, but currently, they’re leaving us in the dust in pledges.”

Mob mentality and faculty rivalries welcomed

The office is also organizing a “Lights Out” flash mob that will travel among groups, shutting off as many lights as possible during that hour. Dockman hopes that campuses, faculties and departments will also work strategically to do their part in going dark and power-free for the hour—both in the office and at home. She encourages staff and students to encourage their friends, classmates and co-workers to sign up, and to challenge those in other areas to participate as well.

Though group participation in the event is strongly encouraged, Dockman notes that it all starts with one simple action from each individual person that helps add up to an international gesture of environmental goodwill.

“If you turn off your lights for an hour, maybe that feels insignificant, but look at the fact that hundreds of millions of people around the world participate every year in Earth Hour,” she said. “It’s actually a compelling message about the power of individuals acting together to combat something as complex as climate change.”