Big turn off
Several energy-conscious Islanders are asking their neighbors to flip the switch, pull the plug, and have fun in the dark next Saturday night. Hoping for a major black-out between 8 and 9 pm, the group wants Vineyarders to join people around the globe in taking a one-hour stand for energy conservation.
"We have a different habit left over from a time when there was an abundance of oil and ease of making electricity," says energy activist Nan Doty, one of four organizers of Lights Out Martha's Vineyard. "Now we need to think about changing our habit."
Originated in Sydney, Australia, in March 2007 when a successful Lights Out event dimmed the skyline for an hour, the concept spread to San Francisco, which observed an electricity-saving hour last fall. This year's effort is the most ambitious of all as a group called Earth Hour sponsored by World Wildlife Federation is encouraging lights out worldwide from 8 to 9 pm on March 29.
The Earth Hour website offers a sign-up where citizens can pledge to go electricity-free and includes an ever-growing list of participating communities, Martha's Vineyard among them.
"Not only do we want them to just turn their lights out," says Marnie Stanton, almanac coordinator for the Vineyard Conservation Society (VCS), which backs the initiative. "We want them to turn off their TVs and their power strips too."
Electrical appliances with instant-on or standby features, from computers and stereos to automatic coffee pots and toothbrush chargers (disparagingly known as electricity vampires) and timers for lights or electronics should be unplugged, she adds.
When VCS board member Jesse Ausbel brought word of Earth Hour to the Island last fall, Ms. Stanton was quick to enlist Ms. Doty, Gail Tipton of Martha's Vineyard Water Alliance, and Dean Bragonier, local director of Nantucket Soundkeeper, to launch the event here.
Lights Out Martha's Vineyard organizers are targeting Islanders from Aquinnah to Edgartown and everybody in between. They have been soliciting town governments, schools, businesses, restaurants, and organizations asking them to join in the effort, as well as urging residents to declare a lights-out at home.
Ms. Stanton reports that officials in all Island towns have agreed to turn off non-essential lights during the hour, and Martha's Vineyard Hospital will turn off all computers that are not needed. A number of Island shops and restaurants plan to eliminate at least some lighting where possible. NSTAR will take readings before, during, and after to measure the event's impact.
For the adventurous, Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown will host a nighttime hike by flashlight. The evening begins with a lights-out ceremony and refreshments at 7:30 pm. A candlelight sing-along will be held if the night is rainy.
Ms. Doty stresses that the event is not meant to create hardship, but to get people thinking about ways to reduce energy use.
"We're asking people to have fun with their lights out," Ms. Doty says. "Light some candles, tell stories instead of watching television, meditate in the dark, or host a green party by candlelight - just remember to have all the cooking done by 8 pm!"
Lights Out Martha's Vineyard, Saturday, March 29, 8 to 9 pm. For more information, call 508-693-9588, ext. 15, e-mail email@example.com, or visit almanac.vcsmv.org or earthhour.org.