Earth Hour 2013: 'I will if you will!'

All photos courtesy Earth Hour Global

Hundreds of millions of people, businesses and governments around the world unite each year to support the largest environmental event in history: Earth Hour.

More than 7 000 cities and towns in 152 countries and territories switched off lights for Earth Hour 2012, sending a powerful message for action to save the planet. This year marked the continuation of the movement’s commitment to going Beyond the Hour.

We spoke to Sue Northam of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the conservation organisation responsible for Earth Hour, to find out how the tourism industry can make a difference on 23 March 2013 and beyond:

Why do you think Earth Hour continues to inspire?

There is a special power in the bold simplicity of Earth Hour – a moment shared in darkness! The beauty of it is that anyone can host an event to celebrate Earth Hour or get involved in whatever way they feel best honours the Earth!

Switching off your lights during WWF’s Earth Hour is a symbolic act of global unity as individuals unite with millions of people around the world to celebrate, reflect on their environmental impact and renew their commitment to the planet. As the world’s largest mass participation event for the environment, Earth Hour drives actions, both big and small, that are changing our world. Together we must find the energy to turn the inspiration of one hour into actions of every hour.

How can supporters globally go Beyond the Hour in 2013?

WWF South Africa’s Earth Hour 2013 inspires us to switch off our lights during Earth Hour, and switch over our mindsets and habits to more sustainable ways of living.

We all need to aim to be energy-efficient first and foremost, as well as investing in clean, renewable energy solutions. This means switching off lights when leaving a room and unplugging appliances when not in use, as well as switching over to energy-efficient solutions such as energy-saving lightbulbs, using renewable energy such as installing solar panels and solar geysers, and reducing our transport energy consumption through carpooling or walking and cycling where possible.

As a sector, the travel industry has a large carbon footprint. What would the WWF like to see tourism businesses do at 8.30pm on 23 March 2013 to show their support and, beyond this, to mitigate their role in climate change?

We encourage tourism businesses to use their communication channels to help spread the word and share what they will be doing during Earth Hour, as well as sharing their "switch over" commitments with partners, suppliers, customers, colleagues, friends and family!

Guest houses could switch off their lights and host candlelit dinners for visitors, and tourism attractions and venues can offer Earth Hour promotions and special gatherings.

Have you received any stand-out 'I Will If You Will' challenges from tourism companies or individuals in the travel industry?

We welcome any challenges and switch-off commitments, as well as sharing of actions beyond the hour. Stories and photos of celebrations can also be sent to earthhour@wwf.org.za.

Where do you see the Earth Hour movement in five years from now, and what has it achieved?

Since its beginnings as a single-city-initiative in Sydney, Australia in 2007, Earth Hour 2012 included more than 7 000 cities and towns in 152 countries, compared to over 5 000 cities taking part in 2011. Thousands of South Africans have participated since 2009, when Earth Hour first took place locally. Many landmarks and iconic buildings, including Table Mountain, have participated by switching off their lights! WWF encourages individuals and businesses to help activate switch-offs of towns, cities and tourism landmarks during Earth Hour 2013.

Each year, Earth Hour gains more and more momentum. By 2018, we see Earth Hour touching the lives of half of the world’s population and reminding everyone of the need to care for the Earth that sustains us in turn. This may sound ambitious, but who would have thought four or five years ago that we would have over a billion people participating in Earth Hour around the world!

Five years from now, we also hope that each individual will be aware of their impact on the Earth in every moment and with each decision, making conscious choices of sustainable practices that contribute to a healthy planet!

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