The city of Starkville is joining a global environmental initiative this weekend by turning off all non-essential lights in city buildings and encouraging citizens to do the same at home.
The city plans to take part in Earth Hour, an event created by the World Wildlife Fund in 2007, which takes place Saturday from 8:30-9:30 p.m. City employees will turn off all non-essential lights in city buildings and adjust heating or air conditioning units to conserve energy, though they will do it at the end of the work day on Friday afternoon, Starkville Electric Department Manager Edd Hattaway said.
Cities, businesses and citizens all over the world will take part in the Earth Hour event. This is the first year the city of Starkville has officially participated, but a handful of businesses and about 100 Mississippi State University students turned off their lights last year, Green Starkville co-founder Nisreen Cain said.
Earth Hour began in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, when 2.2 million homes and businesses turned off their lights to make a stand against climate change. In 2008, Earth Hour became a global sustainability movement, with more than 50 million people in 35 countries participating. In 2009, more than 4000 cities in 88 countries officially switched off their lights.
Cain approached the Starkville Board of Aldermen earlier this month and asked for city officials to support the Earth Hour initiative. The board unanimously approved the city”s participation.
“Our city has been making great improvements towards sustainability over the past few years and this event puts us on the global map of cities making the switch into a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle,” Cain said. “We are asking people to switch off our lights to show their support and awareness of the significance and importance of the energy crisis and our dependence on non-renewable energy. It is a small action that is easy to do to show that each one of us is making a difference and that all of us together make a large impact.”
Hattaway said it is hard to tell how much energy will be saved when the city, local residents and businesses turn off their lights until he can compare the energy consumption this Saturday with the same date in previous years. Even then, it is unclear because weather conditions and, subsequently, heating and air conditioning use, vary from year to year.
Still, Hattaway was optimistic the initiative will be worthwhile.
“You would probably be surprised at how much (energy) it will save just turning off non-essential lights and things,” Hattaway said.
Some of the participating businesses in Starkville have offered their locations as gathering places. The official gathering will take place 8 p.m. at Grumpy”s on Highway 182. The event will be lit by candles and feature live music from several local bands. Strange Brew also will hold an event during Earth Hour.
Green Starkville is collaborating with Mississippi State University”s Environmental Collaborative Office and the Environmental Committee of the Student Association, as well as the Starkville Multi-Culture Lions Club, to put on the Earth Hour event.
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman is looking forward to the city”s participation in Earth Hour.
“This is a great way for us to take a moment to recognize the importance of being good stewards of the planet and that we have been vested with the responsibility to take care of it for our children and grandchildren,” Wiseman said.
Cain is asking fellow Starkville residents to conserve energy and take part in the Earth Hour initiative.
“Regardless of what any of us think about climate change, everyone agrees on saving energy and saving our natural resources, and this is the time to take action and practice what we believe,” Cain said. “This is reflected in the support and welcoming that we had about this event from the community. Every little bit matters. It is easy to turn the light off, but it is also easy to leave it on; the difference over time is huge and that”s what we”re trying to show with Earth Hour.”
“Earth Hour is much more than just turning the lights off for one hour,” she continued. “It is about making a stand and a promise that we will improve our energy and sustainability practices to save our natural resources and conserve or eliminate our use of non-renewable energy sources so that we can create a better future for our children.”