We live in one of the most gas-guzzling, energy-consuming, unenvironmentally-friendly nations on the planet. Feeling a little guilty? There is one painlessly easy way we can all help, by hitting our off switches at 8.30pm on March 26. The UAE is likely to save millions of dirhams and energy on the night.
Organised by WWF, the Earth Hour campaign started in Australia in 2007, where 2.2 million people and 2,000 businesses turned off their lights to make a stand against climate change. In just three years the initiative has spread like wildfire and in 2010 was observed by 128 countries.
Last year 400,000 people in the UAE participated, including big hotel chains like Starwood and iconic landmarks like the Burj Al Arab. Groups hold Earth Hour parties, and gather in huge cities to see the spectacular sight as companies, residents and governments turn off the lights helping to change the world one light bulb at a time.
Of course, this is only the start of things. Earth Hour is part of a wider campaign to spread awareness about how we treat our planet. ‘Earth Hour is more than a single hour. Earth hour is a symbolic and communal act of commitment to living a more sustainable life,’ urges Ida Tillisch from WWF UAE. ‘We are interested in going beyond the hour and helping people save energy and water throughout the year.’
Tillisch believes that residents in the UAE can do more than the average person, as we have one of the largest ecological footprints. ‘It is worth noting that the residential sector is responsible for nearly 57 per cent of this ecological footprint,’ she says, ‘meaning that each of us can make a big difference if we save energy at home.’ Last year WWF worked together with the UAE government to switch the lights off in major landmarks including the Burj Khalifa and Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque. There are plenty of ways to join the cause, and if everyone does a little it will make a huge difference. ‘Visitors will find tips to reduce water and electricity consumption such as turning the air conditioning from 22 degrees to 24 degrees,’ says Tillisch, while residents can ‘replace conventional light bulbs with energy efficient compact florescent or LED lamps, and wash their cars with a bucket instead of a hose.’
The whole city in darkness sounds a little eerie, if not dangerous, but spectators shouldn’t be worried, only non-essential lighting will be switched off for one hour – not lights that affect public safety.
To find out how you can help visit www.earthhour.org
Beyond the hour
Earth Hour doesn’t just stop when you flick your switch back on. Here are a few simple ways to help the larger environmental cause on a daily basis...
• Re-use the back of printed documents as notepads and encourage officemates to do the same.
• Take shorter showers, switch off appliances at the socket and switch off lights when you leave a room.
• Take the bus or metro instead of using a car, or car pool to work.
• Switch off your wireless router at night
• Take the stairs instead of the lift.
• Reuse plastic bags
• Use your printer on draft mode to consume less ink.
• Recycle cans, plastic and cardboard in your home.
• Make a pledge by visiting www.beyondthehour.org
5 places to admire Dubai’s darkness
Tower over the rest of the city at the world’s tallest restaurant. If it’s a clear night the view will be like no other spot in the city.
Downtown Burj Khalifa (04 888 3828).