For the third year in a row the Goshen College campus will join hundreds of millions of people around the world in an hour of darkness as it participates in Earth Hour 2011, an effort to raise awareness about our environmental impact.  From 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 26 the college will turn off most outdoor and indoor lights, and students will be encouraged to turn off room lights and other electrical devices in order to make the campus as dark as possible.

Earth Hour began in Sydney, Australia in 2007 and was spearheaded by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) to be a public statement for action on climate change.  In the years since then, according to the WWF Web site, Earth Hour has grown to become the greatest environmental action in history, with people from 128 different countries around the world participating in Earth Hour 2010.  Even famous landmarks, like the Pyramids in Egypt, the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building and the Christ the Redeemer Statue in Brazil have participated.

Goshen College joined the movement in 2009.  Glenn Gilbert, utilities manager and sustainability coordinator, said, "It's popular because it's a quick event that can happen globally and raise awareness about climate change."

In addition to a darker campus for an hour, the Campus Activities Council will host a number of events throughout the day in honor of the hour.

Like other years, the hour of darkness will coincide with a prescheduled event that will use a lot of electricity.  This year, part of the hour will fall during the Earthtones choir concert (at 7:30 p.m. in Sauder Concert Hall).  Gilbert has worked with the choir directors and Music Center personnel to combine the two events, though not without facing some logistical and safety challenges.

The concert will begin with an announcement about Earth Hour and candles will line the walls of the concert hall.  During the Earth Hour, the chamber choir will sing a song in complete darkness, followed by a song sung by the chorale in low lighting.  The lights will also be low during part of the final song, and the audience will leave the concert hall to a darker lobby and parking lot (though not completely dark, due to safety hazards).

Deb Brubaker, professor of music and director of the chamber choir, said, "It will be a great way to realize how much power we really use during a concert."

While using limited electricity for an hour really doesn't save that much money (about $15), said Gilbert, it gets us thinking outside the box about the ways we use energy.  Gilbert said that most of the college's energy consumption comes from lights, pumps and fans.  Over the recent years, though, the college has done a lot with conservation--and it has shown.

On an average day, Gilbert said the college uses around 7 tons of coal (96 percent of energy in Indiana comes from coal).  Five years ago, the college was using over 10 tons of coal per day.  Gilbert projects that this number will continue to drop in the coming years, and attributes much of the saved energy to the Mac Minis that were installed last summer.

Gilbert said that this was the first winter the computer lab didn't need to be air conditioned.  In a few months, he estimates the college will be back to consuming the same amount of energy as it did in 1992.

Though the college has done a lot on a larger scale, conserving energy behind the scenes, Gilbert said the next step is to look at how students as individuals are using energy.  He suggested simple things like turning off lights and electronics, as well as thinking about how necessary keeping a mini-fridge is.

"Students don't pay the electric bill," he said, "so they'll need to find reasons beyond convenience to conserve energy."

Schedule of Earth Hour events: