Singaporeans switched off about Earth Hour

More than half polled don't know when it is
Teh Jen Lee, The New Paper 27 Mar 09;

SINGAPOREANS seem to be in the dark about Earth Hour, if a poll of 110 people is any indication.

With only two days left before Earth Hour this Saturday, those who know about it may have yet to see the light behind the exercise.

Earth Hour, an international initiative to switch off non-essential lighting from 8.30 to 9.30pm on Saturday, has been well broadcast.

But The New Paper poll showed that the majority (56 per cent) did not know when it is supposed to take place.

Among those who have heard about the initiative, there were some who either did not know the exact details - which means they would not be able to join in the effort - or did not care.

Among those who knew when it was, two-thirds said they had planned to join in the symbolic effort to counter global warming. Out of the 110 polled, this translates to just 30 per cent.

There were those who were simply didn't care, like student Kelvin Wong, 19: 'I'm not doing anything about it. I know it's inconsiderate but I'm not bothered.'

Then there are those who question whether the event would make a real difference (see Street Talk).

Mr Joshua Chong, 30, a programme coordinator, said: 'I don't think there's anything special about Earth Hour. It raises awareness, yes, but I won't be doing anything special.

'What real difference can that one hour make anyway? There's very little real impact, so there's little point in it.'

It appears that corporate entities are taking to the Earth Hour initiative in a more concerted way than individuals.

The organiser of Earth Hour, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), said over 300 companies are taking part, a leap from the few companies which took part last year.

Big names that have pledged their support include Canon Singapore, CapitaLand, Sentosa Leisure Group and National Geographic Channel.

The Canon Singapore billboard on Orchard Road will be switched off during the hour, while National Geographic is doing a channel blackout of its programmes. It will instead flash environmental facts on its screen.

But not all is lost on the community and individual front.

On Saturday, ECO Singapore, a group that advocates sustainable lifestyles for youths, will send out more than 1,200 student volunteers to engage 30,000 households all over Singapore for Earth Hour.

How will the students overcome apathy among the people they encounter?

Mr Wilson Ang, founder of ECO, said: 'The point is not to try and change people overnight, but to encourage them to take that first step. Last year, we had a similar exercise and it was so meaningful that about half of those involved have come back this year to lend a hand.'

Ms Carine Seror, WWF Singapore's director of corporate responsibility and Earth Hour campaign manager, was content with the results of our poll.

'Of course, it can always be better, but given that this is the first year that Earth Hour has been officially endorsed by the Government, the results are not too bad.

'At least half of the people have heard about Earth Hour and they know when it is. This is a huge achievement for us.'

She added: 'Earth Hour has brought the issue of climate change closer to people. From awareness to action is always a struggle. The poll shows that we still have a lot of work to do, until one day when 100 per cent of the population switches off all non-essential lighting.'

Additional reporting by Audrey Tan, Bernice Huang, Darren Foong, Joanna Hor, Michelle Tay, Pearly Tan, Han Su-Ying, newsroom interns

It's time to power off for the Earth
Teh Jen Lee, The New Paper 27 Mar 09;

IS EARTH Hour about switching off lights for an hour, or about switching on your mind to think of how to reduce carbon emissions every day?

The organisers of Earth Hour have said that it's a symbolic initiative.

The next step is to consider how to make Earth Hour an effective tool in the urgent fight against climate change.

How? Have more Earth Hours - from an hour annually to an hour every month.

Then, with greater awareness, have it once a week and, finally, turn it into an daily habit to think about which lights and electrical appliances we really need on.

As what one student, Miss Joyce Leong, 21, said in our poll: 'I always turn off non-essential lights at home. For me, it's Earth Hour every day!'

The thing about environmental problems is that they require a daily, concerted effort to have any positive impact.

During Saturday's Earth Hour, I will be switching off my room light and making sure I've no appliance on stand-by. Then I'm heading to a green concert outside Simei East Point Mall with my father.

It may be a small gesture, but therein lies the power of Earth Hour.

The threshold for action is low because the action is very simple - just turn off the light if you don't need it.

That's why, according to the Earth Hour website, 2,712 cities, towns and municipalities in 83 countries have already committed to support this initiative.

And about candles, if people light 10 candles in place of switching on their lights, this would defeat the purpose of the exercise and result in more carbon dioxide emissions.

Ms Carine Seror of WWF Singapore listed the following recommendations:

Use bee wax or vegetable wax candles

Keep your party simple and do not create unnecessary waste

Power your event with green energy or offset its carbon emissions (for example, by supporting the planting of trees or using energy-efficient light bulbs)

On Saturday, let there be no light.

What a big turn-off
To mark Earth Hour, more than 10,000 people and 450 firms and malls will switch off their lights for one hour tomorrow
Frankie Chee, Straits Times 27 Mar 09;

Singapore will be in the dark tomorrow night, but it is all for the cause of a brighter future.

More than 10,000 people and 450 companies, hotels, malls and schools will switch off their lights for an hour at 8.30pm, as part of the global Earth Hour energy conservation effort.

At least 2,700 cities in 84 countries have committed to mark Earth Hour, an initiative by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to raise awareness of climate change issues and which was launched two years ago.

If you are out and about tomorrow night, you will encounter the unusual sight of Singapore landmarks such as Zouk nightclub and Royal Plaza on Scotts hotel, and malls including The Cathay, Wisma Atria and Tangs Orchard all blacked out during primetime.

Diners at Royal Plaza on Scotts' restaurants will eat by candlelight, moviegoers at Cathay's cinemas will find the passageways dimmer than usual, shoppers at Tangs will browse darkened window displays and about 30 per cent of store lights will be switched off.

At Zouk, Earth Hour puts clubbers in the shade: Unnecessary lighting such as the colour wash on the club's exterior, a fibre-optic installation in its foyer, a plasma wall and the exterior lighting at Wine Bar will be switched off.

Downtown, the lights at Suntec City's distinctive Fountain of Wealth and the logos on its mall and office towers will be turned off.

Individuals are also doing their bit. Undergraduate Darren Tan, 21, has told his mother to switch off the lights in their private apartment in Potong Pasir during Earth Hour.

He says: 'Green awareness is now more apparent - everyone is more aware and conscious of it. And as I grow older, I become more conscious of it too.'

Hospitals are also getting in on the act. Alexandra Hospital will turn off the lights in its wards, along some corridors and on the facade of its building.

The hospital's chief executive, Mr Liak Teng Lit, says: 'It is after visiting hours and the patients are supposed to be sleeping.

'The hospital believes in the cause. Energy shortages and global warming will be big problems and these are caused by the population. We have to do something about it.'

Beverage company Coca-Cola Singapore, whose factory at Tuas operates non-stop, will turn off its sign and the factory's external lighting fixtures as well as those in its administrative building. But the lights in its production and warehouse areas will stay on for the safety of staff operating machinery.

Some places are going beyond the one-hour shutdown to show that they are keen greenies.

Take, for example, the Hong Leong Group conglomerate. Apart from shutting off the lights at 25 buildings, including the Millennium & Copthorne hotels and Hong Leong Finance, the company is encouraging staff to sleep without air-conditioning at home and hotel staff are roping in guests to participate as well.

Electricity in Alexandra Hospital's administrative offices was turned off between noon and 1pm every day this week, while about 40 per cent of its cafeteria lights have been turned off from 10am to noon and 2 to 8pm since Monday.

Coca-Cola embarked on a staff awareness drive about Earth Hour, with regular bulletins sent out weekly and a staff suggestion scheme on cutting down energy consumption.

It is also switching to energy-saving induction bulbs in its warehouse, which, based on its calculations, should result in a whopping 42,240 kilowatt-hour (kwh) reduction in energy usage monthly.

The average energy consumption of a four-room HDB flat is 348kwh a month, while that of a landed property is 1,108 kwh a month.

According to Singapore Power, a 100 watt bulb will use 0.1kw per hour, at a cost of 1.8 cents for the period.

During Earth Hour last year - when Singapore first took part - 50 million people in 370 cities participated.

This year, the initiative seeks to sign up one billion people on its website and will present this figure to world leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.

The meeting will determine government policies and actions to combat global warming, replacing the Kyoto Protocol.

WWF Singapore's director for corporate responsibility, Ms Carine Seror, tells Life!: 'With this one hour, we can't save or change the world. But it shows world leaders we care about the planet and that it's time to take some real action.'