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Whistler is Earth Hour's champion in Sea to Sky

400 to 500 people show up to bike-powered concert



Talk about people power. It took a fair bit of pedalling but Whistler residents, guests and politicians kept the music going for the city's Earth Hour celebration last Saturday, March 26.

And Whistler won the friendly Earth Hour challenge in the Sea to Sky corridor as well.

The resort-wide voluntary power outage was in support of a global movement to promote sustainable energy usage and raise awareness around climate change.

"Somewhere between 400 to 500 people showed up, it was hard to count because it was dark out but it was great, people were fascinated by it," said Kiran Pal-Pross of Late & Unique Nighttime Alternatives (LUNA) event planning, which organized the show with the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

"It is a showcase of renewable energy and it was something that people haven't seen before so they were eager to try. We had people on the bikes from 6 p.m. right to the end of the concert at 9:30 p.m."

The four road bikes donated by Evolution were hooked up to a pedal-powered generator to keep the stage equipment for the evening's musical act - pop-reggae by Aaron Nazrul & the Boom Booms - going. Adding to the Earth Hour commitment, Village restaurants served dinner by candlelight, and the Fairmont Chateau Whistler featured a cold menu with raw items from their Lifestyle Cuisine Plus menu, which were written on handmade paper.

Mayor Ken Melamed suggested the popularity of the evening, and the great energy savings made in the short period of time, could lead to further eco-efforts both within and outside of the municipality.

"Certainly the pedal powered concert was a great event and could really catch on at other events," said Melamed, an avid cyclist who took a turn on a bike to power the stage.

"The real benefit is to show that energy conservation can be tackled in a meaningful way. Events such as Earth Hour serve to bring the initiative to the foreground and show that being conscious of our actions and impacts is the first step to deeper action."

For the first time ever, Whistler Blackcomb shut down the mountains' two main power feeds, which helped Whistler to win the Sea to Sky Earth Hour Challenge between Squamish and Pemberton by saving 2.1 megawatts of power. Other contributors included the Transit Yard, Whistler Sport Legacy society and RMOW staff, which all turned out the lights for Earth Hour.

Whistler saw its power consumption reduced by 4.35 per cent between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., marking a decrease of 1.15 per cent over last year. Squamish dropped its electricity usage by 1.49 per cent, while last year's victor, Pemberton, saw an increase in consumption of 1.95 per cent.

"From BC Hydro we did get word that the drop that we achieved during Earth Hour in Whistler was the equivalent of turning off 160,000 15-watt light bulbs," said Ted Battiston, the RMOW's manager of sustainability initiatives, who also took a few turns on the bikes.

"It was just fun," he said of the event. "In addition to it being a strongly symbolic event and raising a meaningful dialogue around energy conservation it was a great time to be at the concert, the music was fun and any time I get to be on a bike I'm pretty happy."

This marks Whistler's fourth Earth Hour celebration. The world-wide event was founded by the World Wildlife Fund in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change. This year a record 134 countries participated in Earth Hour. In Canada, 422 cities, municipalities and towns took part in the event.



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