More than 100 students huddled together in the Reynolda Hall lobby on March 26 to count down the seconds until the spotlights on Wait Chapel were extinguished in celebration of Earth Hour 2011. The Demon Deacon was on-hand to flip the giant light switch on the quad as the countdown reached zero. The event, sponsored by the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), was moved inside from Hearn Plaza in a last-minute response to the unseasonably cold weather.
Earth Hour, a World Wildlife Fund campaign, began in 2007 in Sydney Australia and has grown to include events in 134 countries worldwide. Efforts large and small promote climate change awareness and activism by cutting off the lights for one hour. This year’s event encouraged participants to go beyond the hour by thinking about what else they could do to make a difference. Participants worldwide can share their stories of activism beyond the hour on the Earth Hour web site.
The university joined this global effort in 2009 when University President Nathan Hatch agreed to turn off the Wait Chapel spotlight for an hour. Last year, 320 students signed the pledge to do their part by turning off unnecessary lights and contemplating the impacts of their energy usage.
Eighty students signed the pledge this year and though the turnout was smaller than anticipated because of the weather, the impact felt by attendees was great.
“The Demon Deacon mascot was there to flip the switch and all the students were chanting the countdown,” Anna Donze, president of SEAC said. “To have the lights turn off right as we reached ‘zero’ was really powerful. It felt like the students caused the lights to go out.”
Donze hopes that students will take the message of this year’s event and contemplate it often throughout the coming year. In addition to signing the pledge, students were able to trade in an incandescent light bulb for a more energy efficient CFL bulb. They also received magnets to remind them of their pledge commitment.
“Hopefully, they will remember to turn off their lights as often as possible and if their friends ask them why, they can reflect on Earth Hour and spread the awareness to those who could not attend,” Donze said.
Missed the party? Enjoy WFMY News 2 coverage of the university’s participation in Earth Hour 2011:
By Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern