Earth Hour Participants to Turn Off PCs, Smartphones

This year's Earth Hour event is expected to draw participants from all seven continents, who will turn off their smartphones, PCs and lights for an hour on Saturday. Major technology companies such as RIM, maker of the BlackBerry, are participating, but an Earth Hour spokesman wants businesses of any size to know they can participate.

At 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, people from all corners of the world will turn off their lights for one hour - Earth Hour, as 8:30 p.m. rolls across the world to their time zones.

This year, the event's organizers, the World Wildlife Fund has set a goal of 1 billion participants. Major landmarks around the world, including the Empire State Building, the Acropolis and the Eiffel Tower will go dark for an hour. While your business may not have so prominent a location, the event's organizers are encouraging everyone to participate-as are major IT companies around the world.

BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion launched a special Website, accessible only through certain BlackBerry devices, supporting Earth Hour. Owners of the BlackBerry Bold, Storm, Curve, Curve 8900, 8800 and Pearl smartphones will be able to access the site, which allows users to access the latest news and videos about Earth Hour, which is being celebrated in 81 countries across the globe.

BlackBerry owners can also access Earth Hour profiles on YouTube and social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Electronics manufacturer Belkin International released a statement reminding businesses and individuals that turning off all your lights doesn't mean you're saving all the electricity you could be.

"Whether the lights are on or off, standby power is using more electricity than you realize and contributing to your personal greenhouse gas emissions," the statement reads. "Standby power, also called vampire power, phantom load or leaking electricity, refers to the electric power consumed by appliances while turned off but still plugged into a power outlet."

Belkin recommends unplugging the unused devices or switch off devices that are often used together and replacing battery-powered devices, such as cordless phones or rechargeable razors, with corded alternatives. This not only cuts down on the standby power required to charge the battery, but also reduces energy lost in battery charging and discharging inefficiencies.

In Doha, Qatar, HSBC said it would request all office employees to switch off all non-essential electrical appliances such as lights, televisions and computers for the hour. In South Africa, Vodacom, the country's largest cellular network, will switch off its electronic billboards around Johannesburg and turn off the lights at fifteen of Vodacom's offices throughout the country.
Suntech Power Holdings, the world's largest photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturer, announced that it would turn off lights of its solar headquarters in Wuxi, China, and 500 employees, customers, partners and government officials would hold an event themed "What do we do if the Earth has no electricity?" in front of the company headquarters.
Closer to home, Con Edison, one of the largest energy companies in the United States, is also teaming up with the WWF to encourage New York City residents to power down for an hour on Saturday, and is taking the lead by announcing plans to dim the lights on the company's headquarters in Manhattan. Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour.
WWF spokesman Dan Forman wants small businesses to know they can participate as well, encouraging business owners to visit the Earth Hour Website and register their "Vote for Earth." The companies will then be listed on the site as active participants. "Earth Hour is a movement anyone can participate in-from large corporations to small businesses," he said. "Without a doubt there are small businesses from Alaska to the Florida Keys who are participating in Earth Hour."
Forman says turning off decorative lighting, no matter how big or small, is something many small businesses can do to participate. Powering down non-essential electrical components will also help, though the symbolic nature of the event is best expressed by the absence of light more than the absence of power. "We don't want businesses to turn all their lights off," he explains. "We want your business to thrive during the hour, but do what you can as a symbolic gesture."
Other ways small business owners can help the event is by spreading the word to employees and customers. "Put signs up in your windows, get the word out," he says. "Your employees respect the fact that their employers care about the environment." Forman said "mom and pop" movie theatres are even running Earth Hour PSAs in their venues. "This is a great event for small businesses," he says.