The UN will once again turn off its lights at Headquarters this Saturday, 31 March to mark Earth Hour, affording staff members at least an hour to consider new ways they can do things more sustainably, at home or in the office.
This is the third year in a row that the UN has participated in Earth Hour, sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund. It is an event that brings people from across the world to switch off their lights for an hour. The symbolism of this campaign is to show what can be achieved when everyone comes together for a common cause - to take action to promote sustainability and to address climate change.
The World Wildlife Fund is also asking us to look beyond Earth Hour and to rethink our behaviour as we switch on the lights again. Linked to that, the UN's Greening the Blue has set up a platform where all UN staff, consultants, interns and volunteers can pledge to make small changes in their day-to-day work habits, contributing to a more sustainable UN.
Earth Hour 2011 was the biggest year in the campaign's five year history, reaffirming it as the largest ever voluntary action for the environment. It took place in a record 5,251 cities and towns in 135 countries and territories in all seven continents, reaching 1.8 billion people across the globe.
In a video message for Earth Hour, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the UN will join Earth Hour ‘in solidarity with men, women and children, 20 percent of all human kind who live without access to electricity.’’ Turning off the lights, he said, “is a symbol of our commitment to sustainable energy for all.”
This year, the Department of Management will turn off all non-essential lights for one hour. Offices away from Headquarters, Regional Commissions, field offices and New York-based UN Funds and Programmes are also encouraged to participate.
Jonathan Wolfe (DM), inspired by last year’s Earth Hour, said that this year he would take part. “The everyday act of switching off millions of disparate, non-essential lights has been turned into a dramatic collective display and reminder of a shared goal. To celebrate this organisational feat, I will turn off my own lights and take my family for a walk down the block to see New York get a bit darker for a while.”
Julie MacKenzie, Senior Advisor, Sustainability, is pledging to become more familiar with the technological tools that could help her print less. She has also resolved to systematically refuse the double bagging habits of New York stores, in order to get all that excess plastic out of her life.
"These might seem like very small and unimportant acts," she said, "but all that talk about baby steps and every little bit counting really is true. If we all do something, the combined consequences can be bigger than we might ever imagine."
All UN staff can participate in Earth Hour and make their own pledge on the pledge page on Greening the Blue. So what could you do? Set your computer to hibernate or shut it down at night? Avoid using disposable plates and bottles? Walk, cycle or use shared transport more often? Whatever you decide, go to the pledge page and post your pledge along with those of others.
(Photo credit: Bo Li/DPI)