Schools going beyond Earth Hour

Channel NewsAsia 29 Mar 12;

Singapore will be observing Earth Hour for the fourth time on Saturday, March 31st but students from 18 months to 18 years, are doing their bid for the environment beyond just 60 minutes.

Since Earth Hour was first observed in Singapore in 2009, the San Lorenzo Montessori school has made it a point to switch off school lights for an hour in two separate sessions.

Though just toddlers, the children are taught the significance of Earth Hour and environmental conservation before the lights go off on Friday.

"We teach the kids about topics like the solar system as part of our curriculum. So with Earth Hour, we teach them its significance and how they can play their part," said Ms Audrey Cho, principal of the Montessori.

The school believes that the effort not only gels smoothly with the school's curriculum, which puts a focus on environmental education, but also serves as a momentum for change.

"If you teach the kids only ABC, you'll miss lots of opportunities. According to studies, 80% of personality traits are formed from 0 to 6 years of age. It's the perfect stage to introduce environmental values" said Ms Cho.

"As for Earth Hour, I've seen the kids getting excited. Their enthusiasm can rub off onto their parents and influence their parents to participate in such activities," she added.

Change led by the young is most apparent in Yangzheng Primary School, where the school has been switching off the lights and fans every month for 10 minutes since last year.

The initiative was the result of the Student Suggestion Scheme, revealed teacher Ms Celestia Chew.

"The students are so enthusiastic that they will always count down to Earth Hour. They are so eager that they will remind me to switch off the lights" said Ms Chew who's also known as the 'Green' teacher for her role as the school's environmental coordinator.

Going beyond the school walls, the teenaged student leaders of Nan Hua High have joined hands with the West Coast Grassroots Organizations (GROs) to organise an Earth Hour event for residents in Clementi.

"The residents will be treated with performances by the students from choir, dance and other co-curricular activities (CCAs). During the lights off, we will conduct a night walk and everyone will make a formation of 60+ thereafter," said Mr Chia Yew Loon, Head of Community Relations Department.

Nan Hua High is expecting 1000 residents to turn up to the event, and have been making preparations since last February.

"By allowing them to organize activities, they'll gain experience and learn from there," said Mr Chia.

At Yishun Junior College (YJC), a group of student leaders known as Environmental Ambassadors take the initiative to lead the institution in environmental practices with regular assembly talks centering on Earth Hour and gathering pledges to preserve the environment.

Besides these one-off initiatives, the Environmental Ambassadors also make sure they walk the talk, by organizing Project RUSCO, a collaboration with Alpha Biofuel that started in 2010 to recycle used cooking oil.

In 2011, Project RUSCO surpassed expectations by collecting an estimated 30kg of oil, with half that amount being converted into biodiesel to fuel green vehicles.

The students also conduct environmental talks in schools around the region while also taking the conservation message to residents and hawkers.

"We are leaving it up to the students, so there's more student ownership" said Mr Chua Chee Siang of YJC's Science department.

"We don't want them to just participate, but to take the lead to change the environment and influence the society".

With young Singaporeans leading environmental initiatives, it appears that the message of Earth Hour can burn bright even after 60 minutes in the dark.


Earth Hour effort one-night only?
Rachel Kelly Channel NewsAsia 30 Mar 12;

SINGAPORE: Millions of people across the world are expected to switch off their lights for this year's Earth Hour on Saturday, but are they in it for the long run, or just for the night?

It is estimated lighting accounts for roughly 19 per cent of energy used globally, and some industry players say consumers and companies can bring that number down substantially by using energy efficient lighting solutions.

At this year's Earth Hour in Singapore, some 300 corporate organisations have committed to switching off to save energy.

That is a 50 per cent increase from last year.

The World Wildlife Fund said it has been approached by companies which are keen to do more.

WWF Singapore CEO Elaine Tan said: "For WWF Singapore, we have been doing Earth Hour for last four years.

"I think corporate partnership and participation has been increasing in terms of the involvement in terms of their response.

"I think, for quite a number of the companies, first and foremost, they want to be able to educate the employees, so WWF comes in to partner them and come up with a green office manual to see as a staff, how you can come in and engage in energy saving measures or steps."

Other than switching off for Earth Hour, it appears more companies worldwide are switching to more sustainable forms of lighting solution on a permanent basis.

Lighting provider Philips said sales of "green lighting" now account for 60 per cent of turnover.

Asia Commercial Lighting Royal Philips senior vice-president and general manager Olivier Piccolin said: "For sure, yes, we are targeting to see towards 100 per cent of our lighting sales to be energy efficient.

"We see also, the sales of LED increasing in a spectacular way -- and we see by 2015 about 45 to 50 per cent of the market will be LED (globally)."

For Singapore-listed property developer CapitaLand, other than taking part in this year's Earth Hour, it is thinking long term and has aggressive targets for energy reduction in its buildings.

CapitaLand said it goes beyond Earth Hour with year-round initiatives such as "wear less days", requiring staff in warm-climate countries to dress light, so the company can turn up the air-conditioning and cut energy usage.

CapitaLand Green Committee chairman Francis Wong Hooe Wai said: "We set group targets for energy and water saving whereby in 2015, we should have saved 15 per cent annually from the 2008 level.

"So then this... cascades down to each property, so each property will have its own water and energy saving target."

CapitaLand added that since 2007, all its new and retrofitted projects have to be green-rated.

- CNA/wk