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Lights out for Earth Hour on Saturday

Whistler looking to regain top spot

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The Resort Municipality is turning out its lights — and asking residents to do the same — in recognition of the global Earth Hour initiative this Saturday, March 23.

The primary goal of Earth Hour for the past nine years has been to draw attention to the issue of climate change. It was created by the World Wildlife Fund, which is concerned about the impact of global warming on endangered species as a result of habitat loss, wildfires, water shortages and other issues. However, the event has also been embraced by others to promote energy conservation, reduce light pollution and other causes.

In Whistler, past events include a pedal-powered concert but this year the main event in the resort is a candlelit skate at Whistler Olympic Plaza as the municipality pulls the plug on its lights at 8:30 p.m. for one hour.

"The lights at all municipal buildings and the heat tracing will be turned off, and we'll be having a family skate night at the Olympic plaza with candles... and we are encouraging everybody to get involved," said Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. "The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is having an Earth Hour celebration and setting up bicycles to generate electricity in the lobby, and I'll be over there at 8:30 p.m. going for a cycle."

Whistler and Pemberton have also had a friendly competition in recent years to see who could cut their power consumption the most, percentage-wise, during Earth Hour. In 2012, Pemberton ranked second in the province according to numbers compiled by BC Hydro after reducing energy use by 6.8 per cent. Whistler was fourth with a 5.6 per cent reduction and Squamish was 49th with a 2.2 per cent reduction.

Top of the list for 91 participating communities was the resort town of Revelstoke, which pulled out all the stops last year to reduce power consumption by an incredible 12.1 per cent.

Wilhelm-Morden said there are no side bets with Pemberton at this point over this year's event, but she'd like to see Whistler move higher.

At the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, hotel staff will have a stationary bike in the lobby hooked up to a blender, and guests will be able to mix their own organic smoothie using their legs instead of electricity. As well, hotel guests will enjoy dinner by candlelight, acoustic music and green-themed cocktails and desserts.

As well, organizers of Whistler's Earth Hour are inviting everyone to turn their lights, televisions, computers and other appliances off at home for at least an hour to enjoy the dark and the silence, and to improve Whistler's numbers.

In Squamish, residents are also being encouraged to participate and the District of Squamish is hosting a glow-in-the-dark skate at Brennan Park arena to mark the occasion. They're encouraging Squamish residents to share their ideas on the district's Facebook page, www.facebook.com/DistrictofSquamish.

The event is meant to raise awareness of the issues rather than actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Some critics have pointed out that an hour is not enough time to have any impact on total emissions, and that burning candles produces more emissions that turning on a light bulb in areas where electricity is generated by coal or gas plants.

For more on Earth Hour, visit www.earthhour.org.

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