Pemberton wins corridor's Earth Hour challenge 

Savings are down from last year; Whistler makes the list

Pemberton is Sea to Sky's Earth Hour champion for the second year in a row, but its energy savings are down from last year.

The valley community north of Whistler saw its energy use decrease by 3.4 per cent during Earth Hour, 8:30-9:30 p.m. on March 27. Pemberton came third in all of British Columbia, as the northern B.C. community of Burns Lake ran away with a seven per cent decrease, the highest in the province. Bowen Island came second with energy savings of 3.9 per cent.

Last year Pemberton came second in the Province with energy savings of 4.6 per cent.

The news had Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy glowing.

"It's a great feeling," he said in an interview. "I just hope we don't go through the same shenanigans that happened last year, where we won in the province and then we got shuffled out of the way."

For his own part, Sturdy's family was away so it wasn't hard for him to power down in his own home. He turned off all the lights in his house and discovered that there were plenty more for him to tackle: lights on the stereo, on phone chargers and elsewhere.

"I basically turned everything off to see if I could get the metre going to zero, but that didn't happen," he said. "You turn off all the lights and you go, holy cow, look at all the lights in here! You have everything turned off that you think is turned off but it's not!"

Whistler, meanwhile, actually made the Earth Hour list this year after missing it in 2009. The resort community saw its energy use decrease by 3.2 per cent, a major improvement over 2009 when energy use actually went up by 1.1 per cent.

"In a lot of ways, Whistler really won in the corridor in terms of a year over year improvement," Sturdy said. "It's great to know that the people in this community care about their province and also about their community, about just the right thing to be doing."

Kevin Damaskie, a sustainability coordinator with the Resort Municipality of Whistler, agreed with Sturdy's assessment of Whistler.

"The most important thing is that Whistler people kind of realized not only the symbolic value of Earth Hour but the value of coordinated action," Damaskie said. "We had a substantive increased improvement over last year and I think that's where the real value is because last year we didn't do that well."

Earth Hour activities in Whistler included a glow-in-the-dark ball hockey game at Village Square. As well, several businesses took up special initiatives to partake in Earth Hour. Araxi, for example, prepared food and hosted dinner by candlelight and Citta' turned off its lights save for the TVs that were broadcasting a hockey game.

Damaskie helped spread awareness for Earth Hour himself by dragging his sons along to notify hundreds of businesses in Whistler door-to-door.

"A million micro things make the difference," he said. "The bottom line is, it's having people in your face, explaining to you that your commitment has value to our community and the world and means a lot, and that's what we did this year. We tried to do as much outreach as possible."

Third place in Sea to Sky's Earth Hour contest went to Squamish, which decreased its energy use by 2.5 per cent, coming short of its 2009 achievement, which saw the community decrease its energy use by 3.6 per cent.

All Sea to Sky communities, however, fell short of a challenge issued by Pemberton to reduce their energy consumption by five per cent. Squamish is nevertheless on the hook to host the other two communities for an evening social to discuss ways that they can all work together to reduce their carbon footprint.

B.C. Hydro reported the province's total electricity load dropped by 1.04 per cent during Earth Hour, saving 64.6 megawatt hours of electricity. However, British Columbia's Earth Hour efforts appear to be going in the wrong direction. In 2009 there was a 1.1 per cent reduction in the overall electricity load during Earth Hour, and in 2008 the decline was 2 per cent.


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