A relatively new addition to the arena of environmental awareness events, Earth Hour has grown from a small platform in Australia in 2007 to a worldwide movement. Over a billion people are estimated to participate in the annual global initiative to turn off non-essential lights for 60 minutes each year.
In 2004, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Australia approached an advertising firm for ideas to increase public awareness of the ill effects of man-made climate change. A strategy was developed over the next few years, and on March 31, 2007 the first Earth Hour took place in Sydney and was dubbed “The Big Flick.”
Inspired by the success of Australia’s event, San Francisco planned a similar movement in October later that year which it called “Lights Out.” The success of the California initiative prompted officials to throw their support behind Australia’s plan to repeat the event in March 2008. From that time, local organizers have focused their efforts on 60 minutes of a pre-designated day in the latter half of March, from 8:30 to 9:30 PM local time.
Earth Hour has a different campaign slogan and focus each year, with examples like “Dark City, Bright Idea” in 2008, “Beyond the Hour” in 2010, and “Change Climate Change” in 2015. The event has grown drastically since 2007, picking up many celebrity endorsements and political allies along the way. Both local and national governments as well as international organizations like UNESCO and FIFA participate.
The level and type of participation around the world varies widely. Individuals are encouraged to turn off unnecessary lights in their homes. Schools may elect to contribute their 60 minutes of decreased power usage on Friday afternoons since Earth Hour is typically held on Saturday. During the actual Earth Hour, YouTube and Google have both changed their logo, stations like Cartoon Network have suspended programming, and even national monuments like the Eiffel Tower were darkened.
In addition to the dimming of lights during the 60 minutes of Earth Hour, numerous fundraising events take place leading up to and during the event. The money raised goes to support on-the-ground environmental projects throughout the world. While some of these raise money at a local level, Earth Hour organizers developed a crowdsourcing platform in 2014 which they called Earth Hour Blue. The money raised in this manner is distributed by developers to environmental projects around the globe.
Earth Hour organizers have no plans to modify the annual event in future years. They continue to have grand ideas for maximizing the movement’s impact on climate change through the hugely successful global initiative.