“Always have a project. Always have something to be working on; something to look forward to.” This was always my mom’s advice to me. It was November of 11th grade, and I was without a project, so I went to a library computer and sat down to find my next project. About half an hour later I stumbled upon Earth Hour. This is what I found:
It was inspiring, it was doing something, it was something I could be a part of and spread.
For those of you who don’t know, Earth Hour is an initiative started by the World Wildlife Fund to combat climate change. Earth Hour started in Sydney, Australia in 2007 to symbolize the fight against coal-fired electricity, the biggest contributor to global climate change. By getting individuals, corporations, businesses, families, even whole cities to turn off their lights from 8:30-9:30 PM on the last Saturday in March, people could begin to take a stand against climate change. What started as a localized event in 2007 quickly became a worldwide movement, uniting an estimated 1.8 billion people across 135 countries last year.
I have worked on Earth Hour projects for the past four years, each year doing something a little different. This year, however, was my favorite, because this year Environmental Alliance adopted the project, and together with Duke/UNC’s Roots & Shoots, we successfully had our first annual Carbon-Neutral Earth Hour Concert.
Carbon-neutral. Sounds impressive, no? Well, we certainly didn’t want to be contributing to a problem we were trying to fight. Keeping in line with the message of Earth Hour, we wanted to keep our carbon footprint low, so we powered our lights using electricity that we were generating ourselves. With five bicycles, a handful of generators, and a lot of energy from generous volunteers, we fueled our lighting system…Well, at least some of the time (those lights were hard to keep on!). Amid the performances and Earth Hour videos, we included tips on how to lower your carbon footprint even when it’s not Earth Hour. And with the help of Sustainable Duke and the Facilities Management Department, the Chapel lights were turned off in solidarity with Earth Hour.
Our two-hour concert was great, but it was really just the start. Climate change is a big and complex problem, and unfortunately it cannot be solved by turning off and tuning in for just one hour of the year. Earth Hour is a message that individual action can make a collective difference, that how each of us interacts with the world really does matter. Together with the WWF, I encourage you to “go beyond the hour” and make a commitment to continue being environmentally aware: unplugging unused electronics, taking shorter showers, eating “real food,” drinking tap water, or even turning off the lights when you leave a room. Together, we can make a difference.