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Earth Hour: What are you going to do the morning after?

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Posted by Nola Poirier

At 8:30 p.m. on March 27, 2010 the houses in Burns Lake were barely lit, their occupants sitting in darkness only penetrated by the soft glow of candles.

They didn't know it then, but they were on their way to becoming the 2010 Earth Hour champions of B.C. And they didn't stop there.

Taking a stand

Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million people and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change. By 2010, Earth Hour was a global phenomenon.

According to the global Earth Hour website, in 2010 "128 countries and territories joined the global display of climate action. Iconic buildings and landmarks from Asia Pacific to Europe and Africa to the Americas switched off. People across the world from all walks of life turned off their lights and came together in celebration and contemplation of the one thing we all have in common – our planet."

2011, the next step

Earth Hour is hosted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and sponsored provincially by BC Hydro. Earth Hour 2011 is on Saturday, March 26 from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (local time), and this year, it's about more than 60 minutes.

Earth Hour, and BC Hydro, are asking people to use this event as motivation to make plans and take action to reduce energy use year round. According to Team Power Smart, "If British Columbians implemented the same conservation measures (as they did in 2010) for just one hour every evening, the combined savings would be enough to power close to 2,200 homes for an entire year."

Burns Lake committed to energy alternatives

Burns Lake's infatuation with Earth Hour wasn't just a one-night stand.

Jeff Ragsdale, Development Services Coordinator for the Village of Burns Lake, says that the top council goal for 2011 is to be "a leader in energy self-sufficiency with a focus on district-wide heating using alternative energy sources."

During Earth Hour 2010, Burns Lake reduced its power use by 7%, easily topping the provincial average of 1.4%. Part of the reason they did so well was that many residents were already actively engaged in reducing energy use and were invested in creating year-round alternative energy solutions.

Ragsdale says: "We are investigating a 'community heating network' for the downtown core area, which we hope to be able to start in the spring of 2012. Other projects that we are investigating include installation of a biomass heating system for our local arena, and the installation of solar lights for our Spirit Square. We have completed energy retrofits to some of our municipal buildings, including the use of solar panels in the process."

And it doesn't stop there.

"We hosted a 'Climate Action Boot Camp' and a 'Community Energy and Emissions Planning' workshop, both of which were well attended by the public," adds Ragsdale. "Mayor Bernice Magee proudly sits on the 'Mayors Council on Climate Action,' and we are an active member of the Community Energy Association."

Everybody wins

So... in this friendly competition Burns Lake might still be the town to beat. But in reality, we all benefit from each other's energy savings.

Join the action. Pledge to be a benefit to your household, your organization, your community, and your world. Sign up for Earth Hour 2011 – 60 minutes and beyond.

Find more information and interactive tools on the Canadian Earth Hour site and on Earth Hour's global site.

Nola Poirier is a Sunshine-Coast based freelance writer and regular contributor to Unplug This Blog!