Clayton Heights students pull plug on Earth Hour

Board games and fun with family are some of the ways local students will be marking Earth Hour.

Just because Earth Hour takes place on a Saturday night during Spring Break doesn’t mean a local high school can’t get into the act.

Clayton Heights Secondary spent the past week raising awareness about Earth Hour, the global initiative to get people to turn off all the lights –  and power down appliances and electrical gadgets – for one hour on March 26.

Wherever they are, Canadians are asked to observe the power down for 60 minutes starting at 8:30 p.m.

“We’ll probably play a board game or something,” Grade 11 student Nalin Dhillon said.

He’s one of the students helping to spread the word about Earth Hour, which aims to reduce power consumption and to raise awareness.

The school may not be able to participate directly, but a few Earth Hour-style activities were planned ahead of time, Dhillon says.

On March 14, teachers were given the opportunity to switch off the lights in their classroom.

Students also created paper light bulbs with facts, quotes and information about Earth Hour printed on them and hung them up around the school to help promote the campaign.

Ideas for the hour itself include planning a candlelight dinner, playing board games (like Dhillon plans to do), or telling stories as a family.

Participants are asked to think about ways to reduce power consumption in the long-term, too.

Standard incandescent bulbs are being phased out in favour of more efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs, or CFLs.

On Jan. 1, B.C. banned new imports of 75-and 100-watt incandescent bulbs.

CFLs use 75 per cent less energy than incandescents and last up to 10 times longer.

Clayton Heights instructor Sarah Daintrey says at home, she simply replaces incandescent bulbs with long lasting fluorescent bulbs as they burn out.

Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, when 2.2 million homes and businesses turned the lights off.

A year later, it spread to more than 50 million people across 35 countries, when well-known landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Rome’s Colosseum stood in darkness. By 2009, more than 1 billion people participated in Earth Hour.

Last year, enough Surrey residents pulled the plug to reduce the city’s power consumption by 2 per cent. That’s actually better than the provincial average of 1.03 per cent, according to BC Hydro, which sponsors the event along with the World Wildlife Fund.

Combined, B.C. residents saved 64.4 megawatt hours of electricity in 2010 – the equivalent of turning off 1.4 million lights. Perhaps it’s not so symbolic after all.