Beyond Earth Hour – by Ryan Jamula

On March 31, 2012 people all around the globe will come together to take action on one unified cause by turning out the lights from 8:30pm-9:30pm to raise awareness about climate change. What started in one city only 6 years ago has evolved into 135 countries in 5,200 cities in 2011, and a global movement to raise awareness on the issue of climate change.

This year the Branlyn Neighbourhood Youth Association and the Brant Young New Democrats are joining together to spearhead Brantford’s Earth Hour awareness campaign. We are challenging the community of Brantford – businesses, schools, community organizations and every individual – to pledge their support of Earth Hour by turning off all non-essential lighting. Our goal is to reduce the city’s energy usage by 6% on March 31st.

We also challenge the community to go beyond the hour, reducing their ecological footprint and to be conscious of how our daily activities affect the globe. We have the ability to join together as a community, and create not only a greener city to live, but a healthier province, country and world. We all know that one person switching off the lights for one hour cannot reverse the damage that has been done to the environment. But through simple, cost-efficient actions we can reduce energy consumption, water consumption, and waste disposal. When an entire global community joins together to raise awareness on one issue, it becomes a catalyst for action and change.

Unfortunately Canadians have become a society of mass consumption. The amount of water we waste is incredible. According to Environment Canada, each Canadian uses about 329 litres of water per day – 30% of which is flushed down the toilet. Through small easy steps, we can all reduce the amount of water we use. Here are a few suggestions. Fix leaks and turn taps off tightly (a leak of one drop per second wastes 10,000 litres of water per year), use a low flow shower head to save an average of 1000 litres of water per week, and make sure your dishwasher is full before running.

The average Canadian family of four produces 2000 kilograms of garbage per year. The solution to cut down on this waste: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Try not to buy a lot of items with large amounts of unnecessary packaging that ends up in landfills. Purchase reusable coffee mugs, water bottles, and grocery bags instead of using their disposable counterparts. Donate gently used clothing to charity instead of throwing it out. Everyday countless recyclable items (plastics, aluminum, and paper) are needlessly thrown into the garbage. Simply put these items into your recycling bin and help stop the pile up in landfills. Remember to never throw out any household hazardous waste items (paints, batteries, oils, pool chemicals, etc.) or electronic items (phones, computers, televisions, etc.) in the regular garbage as it can be extremely harmful to the environment. Instead dispose hazardous items and recycle your electronics on Household Hazardous Waste days. For a complete list of which items can be recycled, what is considered hazardous waste, and the dates of Household Hazardous Waste days in 2012, visit the City of Brantford website.

Of course, I cannot leave out the issue of energy reduction. Beyond turning the lights out for one hour on March 31st, here are some other tips to reduce energy consumption. Unplug appliances that are rarely used and cell phone chargers when they are not in use can save you about $10 per month on your utility bill. Turn off the lights! It may seem like an obvious one, but it is surprising how often we forget to flick the switch. Replace standard light bulbs with energy saving compact fluorescent light bulbs and properly maintain your air conditioning and heating systems by changing air filters. When it is time purchase new appliances look for the Energy Star label, as these products use 20-40% less energy than other new models.

If climate change is not enough to motivate you to make a few small changes in your habits, than the savings on your utilities should. If everyone could commit themselves to just one, two, or multiple of these suggestions to reduce their environmental impact, the strain on our environment can be lessened. Together we can come together and send the message that it is time to take action and make small changes that truly make a world of difference.
It starts with you.

On March 31st make your commitment to the Earth and turn out the lights. 

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