It’s a bright idea gaining popularity worldwide, but enthusiasm for Earth Hour may be dimming at home.
Toronto was one of 6,494 cities in 150 countries — 511 in Canada alone — to participate in sixth annual event Saturday night, with millions worldwide flicking off the lights in an effort to raise awareness about conserving energy and combating climate change.
But the city saw just a 6.8 per cent drop in power use throughout the hour, according to Toronto Hydro. While it’s an improvement over the dismal 5 per cent reduction last year, it falls short of the 10 per cent drop in 2010 and is less than half of the 15 per cent reduction in 2009.
Toronto Hydro spokesperson Tanya Bruckmueller said Saturday night she was pleased to see the improvement over last year.
In photos: Toronto marks Earth Hour
“Earth Hour is more about awareness, but we’re certainly happy that some people stepped up to the plate and turned off their lights,” she said.
Saturday night’s reduced power load, which represented about 193 megawatts, is the equivalent of about 128,000 homes, Bruckmueller said.
While the majority of lights continued to shine across the city throughout the hour, not all Torontonians were in the dark about the event. Various lights-out celebrations were planned in Toronto, including at the Distillery District, where World Wildlife Fund Canada hosted an outdoor party.
Eco-conscious revelers lit candles, swayed and sang along in the district’s square for the official performance Team Earth Hour Anthem, a newly penned song comprising lyrics submitted by Canadians on Facebook.
Moments before the countdown to lights-out, 10-year-old Isabella Spensieri declared her high hopes for the evening.
“I’m here to save the world,” she said shyly, swaying to the music.
“We wanted to come down here, because when you’re at home, you don’t really feel it. You’re just at home with the lights out,” said Mary-Kay Spensieri.
Around the city, the CN Tower went over to the dark side by turning off all its exterior lights, while some business logos on highrise towers and hotels went dark. Other Canadian landmarks expected to power down included Niagara Falls, the Montreal Cross and the Parliament Buildings.
Toronto was the first Canadian city to announce its participation in the event, signing on in 2008 — one year after the World Wildlife Fund kicked off the event in Australia.
Since then, participation has grown yearly, with 2012 seeing more countries than ever. Among the first-timers was Libya, where a teenager organized participation for the country, according to the WWF.
Some of the world’s renowned landmarks, from Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate to Sydney’s Opera House to the Great Wall of China, turned off the power switch. Paris’s Eiffel Tower participated, but only for five minutes due to security reasons.
There’s no way to measure exactly how much energy is saved globally, Earth Hour organizers say, but the aim is to show leaders that global warming is a worldwide concern.
With files from the Star’s wire services
Earth Hour in Toronto
2011: 5% reduction
2010: 10% reduction
2009: 15.1% reduction
2008: 8.7% less than the average for the past three years