LIGHTS OUT, energy saved

By Katie Dextraze

Contributing Writer

Imagine watching from an extraterrestrial vantage point as just after sundown the lights in over 4,000 cities in some 88 countries across the globe went out. Major architectural icons—Big Ben, the Empire State Building and the Sydney Opera House—so impeccably lit on any other evening become dark. Last Saturday March 28, Tech also turned down its power from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. to join in the third annual Earth Hour.

Earth Hour was started by the World Wide Fund for Nature of Sydney, Australia. The first Earth Hour was held in 2007 with 2.2 million of Sydney’s residents turning off their lights and electronics. Interest in Earth Hour increased markedly over the last two years, and this year even the U.N. found it appropriate to dim their building.

The city of Atlanta was one of the 10 key United States cities to participate in Earth Hour. According to Georgia Power, energy use declined by approximately four percent from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. Atlanta’s mayor Shirley Franklin threw a symbolic switch to darken the downtown area, most notably the World of Coke and Bank of America buildings.

Over the past few years, Tech has made a move toward campus sustainability and participated in Earth Hour as one of the flagship campuses.

Some of these sustainability efforts have been pushed by student efforts. Members of Students Organizing for Sustainability (SOS), a student organization for the environmentally conscious, checked classrooms and labs to make sure that all non-essential lights and computers were turned off.

In addition, the Freshman Council held a “Blackout Party” on the Campanile to encourage student participation in Earth Hour.

“It was unexpected to have FC spearhead such a large event, because sometimes freshman are seen as apathetic and still adjusting to college,” said Joe Charbonnet, member of the Freshman Council. “I think there was some surprise among administrators, though, because students can sometimes organize and cooperate better than departments. We’re gaining some respect.”

Charbonnet explained that the problems of climate change and exhausting resources are just as inspiring for this generation of students as the civil rights issues that incited the student movements in the past decades. “Aspirations for greatness and reform are coming back to the youth community,” Charbonnet said.

Marcia Kinstler, director of the Office of Environmental Stewardship, has supported students in their efforts to improve campus sustainability.

“Almost 50 percent of the energy consumed can [be] reduced simply by changes in behavior. We could only get approval for hosting this Earth Hour event by encouraging conscious energy use as a way of life,” Kinstler said.

Tech is Georgia’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified campus and is ranked in the top four percent of United States universities for sustainability. There are eight projects registered for LEED consideration, with the College of Management and Klaus Advanced Computing Building already certified with LEED.

“Green buildings are tangible models of our [goals],” Kinstler said, “and we’re applying these green efforts beyond our campus. We have… research centers that are working in new fields… that have been created by interest in sustainability.”