Columbia residents plan to switch off lights for global Earth Hour

Thursday, March 14, 2013 | 2:54 p.m. CDT; updated 5:53 p.m. CDT, Thursday, March 14, 2013

COLUMBIA — Columbia residents and businesses will participate in an hour of symbolic darkness on Saturday, March 23, by turning off lights and electronics in observance of the global Earth Hour event.

Mayor McDavid has issued a proclamation encouraging residents to power down for the event, which will occur internationally from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. 

"It does send a message when you power off," said Monta Welch, president of the Columbia Climate Change Coalition. "It's like you're voting with your light switch."

Welch said the event, in addition to saving energy, is a chance to send a message of community support for environmental and sustainability issues "in solidarity with folks around the world."

The World Wildlife Fund began Earth Hour in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, and it became international the next year. Welch brought the event to Columbia in 2008, and participation has increased since then

"Every year we do a little bit more," said Barbara Buffaloe, sustainability manager for the City of Columbia. 

Last year's event reduced Columbia's electricity usage by two megawatts, which is equal to the amount of power 80 homes use in one day, according to Columbia Water and Light.

Restaurants, businesses, elementary schools and households participate in the event.

"We have a lot of families that participate," Buffaloe said. While Buffaloe was speaking at a middle school about the event, one student told her his family participates each year by turning off all the lights and telling ghost stories by candlelight in their living room. 

Earth Hour falls on MU's spring break, so the university will hold an earlier event on March 21, Buffaloe said. MU will turn off the lights at landmarks such as Jesse Hall and the MU columns. Ben Datema, environmental leadership advisor, is organizing groups to walk around campus and turn off lights that aren't being used.

Thursday will also include a kickoff event at the Daniel Boone City Building. Several educational events, such as forums and documentaries, will be held throughout the week to inform the community about environmental issues.

Columbia Transit is celebrating the event by offering free rides to encourage residents to reduce their environmental impact by using public transportation. City buses will be free on Thursday, March 21, and Saturday, March 23. 

"The idea is to take that hour and expand upon it," Buffaloe said. "You get ideas for how to continue doing these types of activities."

Welch hopes Earth Hour will make people consider how green their lifestyles are. 

"It's just taking that moment to think about your impact on the Earth and trying to apply it to maybe more than just this 60 minutes in March," Buffaloe said. 

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Richard Saunders March 14, 2013 | 5:55 p.m.

As I state each and every year, no electricity is saved by engaging in this gimmick, but rather, all the power "saved" is actually wasted on the wire.

Too bad that the people who promote this do not understand power generation. Just because you don't use what is already there in NO WAY means that it is saved. While the load is reduced, it cannot be reflected by decreased generation.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 15, 2013 | 5:26 a.m.


Since they don't understand generation we can assume that they have no understanding that we are effectively on the edge of a cliff in trying to keep generation in pace with demand.

Well, as long as one can flick the switch and something still happens ... what else does one need to know?

Milk really originates in cartons; no cows are involved.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 15, 2013 | 6:03 a.m.

Richard Saunders wrote:

"Too bad that the people who promote this do not understand power generation."

You've been writing this every year, and you show every time you write it that you don't understand power generation.

Consider a gasoline generator on a jobsite. It's running at a constant 3600 rpm with no load. Someone starts a 15 amp saw, and the speed of the generator drops for a second, and then the governor on the engine opens the throttle of the engine and brings the generator back up to speed. While the saw is being used, the engine uses more fuel than when the generator has no load, and when it is not, the engine uses less.

Exactly the same principle obtains on the grid. Reducing load reduces the amount of energy that needs to be put into the generators. How much fuel that actually saves depends on the generation method(s). The point is there is no energy storage on the grid, so load and generation must be closely matched to ensure stable voltage and frequency.

2 MWH is a negligible saving in the context of our consumption patterns. But it's not wasted.

Ellis is correct in that we, for various reasons, are not keeping up with increased electrical demand. The blackouts in California in the summer of 2005 are a good example of what happens when you fail to keep up. Efficiency and conservation, which Earth Hour is a symbol of, are ways to slow that increase. The problem is actually getting people to do it.


(Report Comment)
frank christian March 15, 2013 | 10:16 a.m.

Comparing "us" to CA may be a mistake. Michael Reagan reported yesterday that even with all the new taxes imposed upon the people by their own legislators, State of CA collected 19% less revenue this year, over same period last year.

If they could learn more about taxation, I bet "generation" would be easier to comprehend.

(Report Comment)

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