COLUMBIA — The neon lights of The Tiger Hotel and Jesse Hall's dome are just two of the familiar city sights that will disappear into the dark Saturday night.
The World Wildlife Fund has designated the Earth Hour from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., and the Columbia Climate Change Coalition is encouraging residents to turn off all nonessential electrical devices for a fourth year and join a worldwide movement to raise awareness about sustainability efforts.
Begun in 2007 in Sydney with more than 2 million people and 2,000 businesses, Earth Hour grew to include more than 128 countries and territories in 2010, according to the event's website. Monta Welch, president of the coalition, noted that Columbia's participation in the event has expanded over the past four years.
"It's growing each year into a much larger sustainability movement that focuses on all the issues of sustainability, but especially climate change and the impact that it’s having on our nation and around the world," Welch said.
This year, residents looking to explore the city in the dark can take part in a number of events:
- Watch Columbia landmarks go dark. Familiar sights on MU, such as MU Columns, the dome of Jesse Hall and Stankowski Field will turn off their lights for Earth Hour along with the Columbia Public Library and The Tiger Hotel.
- Stargaze at Laws Observatory. Despite the snowy weather, free coffee and cake will still be provided to complement discussions about sustainability issues by candlelight.
- Enjoy a candlelit dinner. Flat Branch Pub and Brewery, Sycamore, Bleu, Addison's, Sophia's and Uprise Bakery are all taking part in Earth Hour by trading their electric lighting for candles Saturday night.
- Charge your cell phone without an electrical outlet. Battery dead? Stop by Ragtag Cinema, 10 Hitt St. to charge your cell phone with a human-powered charger. Welch speculated the contraption will feature a bicycle as one of its main components.
- Indulge in painting and wine by candlelight. For the first time during Earth Hour, residents can bring their painting supplies and candles and enjoy a glass of wine at the Orr Street Studios, 106 Orr St.
Welch said the list of participating businesses has grown from last year's.
"We’ve added a number of new names that we didn’t have last year, and we hope to continue to do that," she said. "We hope to add more and more businesses as they see this as a more viable opportunity for them to show how they’re going green."
Welch encouraged people heading out during Earth Hour to use alternative transportation to cars.
"It's about using the hour in a meaningful way," Welch said.
Writing letters to politicians and editors, inviting over family and friends for dinner and sharing information about sustainability were some options Welch offered for an evening at home.
The coalition has petitioned and worked with city departments and organizations to boost event participation and "take our game to the next level," Welch said of the sustainability efforts. She said the coalition has asked Boone Electric Cooperative and Columbia Water and Light for help in measuring the impact of Earth Hour.
“It’s about realizing that we’re in solidarity with other people doing this — 88 other countries or more possibly by now, over 4,000 major cities around the world,” she said.
Welch said she hopes the event will connect residents with a larger effort.
"In order to not stalemate the conversation, it’s important to know that if we take care of the environment and the undeniable pollution right in front us, that would go an awfully long way to making a difference in every area," she said. "If we just do what we see right in front of us, we can make a big difference not just for this hour but beyond the hour."