Sydney goes dark in effort to shed light on global warming

In an attempt to raise awareness about global warming, Sydney, Australia set out to launch the world's first planned citywide blackout on Saturday, March 31.

In an attempt to raise awareness about global warming, Sydney, Australia set out to launch the world's first planned citywide blackout on Saturday, March 31.

"Earth hour," scheduled to begin at 7:30pm local time, has been in the works for 10 months by international conservation group WWF, in partnership with city authorities, businesses, and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Lights will go out at Sydney landmarks and buildings, including the famous Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House, as well as tens of thousands of residential homes.

A thousand businesses have agreed to take part in an event the WWF hopes other cities will copy. Even McDonald's will turn off its "Golden Arches" signs, WWF Australia communications director Andy Ridley told Agence France-Presse. Only lights for public safety will deliberately be kept on.

Why does it matter?

"This type of high-profile publicity stunt... offers excellent branding opportunities for companies looking to highlight their dedication to the environment," says Eric Gertsman, leader of GlobalFluency's envirotech practice and director of the Global Renewable Energy and Environment Network. "A good marketer will find creative ways to leverage the event, including developing partnerships with city governments themselves.

"If nothing else," he adds, "shutting lights for an hour [shows] your customer base that environmental issues matter to you."

Gerstman cautions, however, that while stunts get you exposure, only a dedicated green policy "earns you legitimacy."

"Many [leaders] on environmental sustainability appreciate that the most effective ways to reduce carbon emissions and conserve resources will be through public-private partnerships," says Ann Barlow, president, West Coast, Peppercom and GreenPepper lead. "Done right, the company can enhance its reputation [and] have a lasting impact on the community."

Five facts:

1. Last month, Paris conducted a similar campaign, dimming lights for five minutes in the French capital and turning off the lights of the Eiffel Tower

2. According to findings in the Lifestyles of Health & Sustainability Consumer Trends database, 60% of US adults said they'd be more likely to buy from a company that displays a consciousness of environmental issues

3. Santa Fe, NM, is the first city to sign the 2030 Challenge, a proposal adopted by the US Conference of Mayors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new construction

4. Time reports that Honda CEO Takeo Fukui's design of the hydrogen-fuel-cell concept car is the first engine capable of meeting the 1970 Clean Air Act's emission standards

5. Hewlett-Packard is launching a campaign to lower its global energy use by 20% less than 2005 levels by 2010, in part by using its own, more efficient products

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