COLUMBIA — Later this month, Columbia residents and businesses will show how much they can accomplish in the dark.
Some local businesses owners, residents and city employees will turn off all non-essential lights to promote sustainability and protection of the environment during the 7th annual Earth Hour from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. on March 29.
- 7 p.m. March 15 Organic refreshments and Social at the Boone County Commission Chambers at 801 E. Walnut Street.
- City buses will run for free all day March 29.
- "Green" Candidate Forum on Environment and Sustainability at 11 a.m. March 29 at the Blind Boone Center at 301 Providence Road.
- For more information and a schedule of events, visit www.ColumbiaClimateChangeCoalition.org or call Monta Welch at 443-4717 or 777-2216.
The symbolic event was marked Thursday afternoon at city hall with the Earth Hour Kickoff, where organizers and organizations discussed some of the efforts and events this year.
Monta Welch, the Earth Hour lead coordinator and founder of Columbia Climate Change Coalition, said about 25 to 30 businesses participate each year. This year, Welch and other organizers are joining with the city of Columbia and expect more involvement.
Last year, Welch and city officials estimated the energy saved during Earth Hour could power 100 homes for one full day.
Columbia was among the first cities involved in the global event that started in Australia in 2007. This year, 152 countries are part of the Earth Hour, Welch said.
"We're very proud to be one of the pioneers of this symbolic event and it reflects one of our core values of stewardship," City Manager Mike Matthes said.
Matthes said the city would be joining the event by turning off the "Keys to the City" sculpture in front of City Hall and all other non-essential lights. He said more than half of the city's 1,400 employees would also take part in turning off the lights in their homes.
"We encourage people to do anything, no matter how big or small, just whatever they can do that fits into their own lives, to join in this widespread effort for sustainability," Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said.
Several restaurants will also be joining Earth Hour, sponsored by the Columbia Climate Change Coalition and the City of Columbia, by using candles in their dining rooms.
"It makes for a neat atmosphere, and it's almost universally accepted across the board," Matt Jenne, co-owner of Addison's in downtown Columbia, said.
Beyond that, Jenne has replaced lighting at Addison's with LED bulbs to decrease energy costs and said the staff is committed to recycling.
"It's a really neat event and we like participating because it's something that doesn't cost money to raise awareness," Jenne said. "I feel it adds romance to the atmosphere."
New this year
Earth Hour organizers will hold a Green Candidate Forum on sustainability and environmental ethical issues. The event, at Blind Boone Community Center at 301 Providence Road, will feature school board and city council candidates.
The forum takes place from 11 a.m. until approximately 1 p.m, though Welch said it might run longer depending on the number of questions.
Welch said community members should think of ways "to go beyond the hour" by assessing their habits and keep their minds on sustainability and limiting personal waste.
"This event is a less-thought-about way of going green," Welch said. "It's about educating and connecting the dots — we need to think about ways to bring everyone together especially younger people and lower income people."