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U of T to go dark for Earth Hour


Lights-out event is one way the university can contribute

by Maria Saros Leung

It's a simple act meant to inspire action on climate change. On Saturday March 29, from 8 to 9 p.m., U of T's three campuses are joining individuals and businesses around the world in turning off non-essential lights to deliver a powerful message.

"It's important for people to recognize what smart thinking around energy can be," said Elizabeth Sisam, assistant vice-president (space and facilities planning).

Members of the university community are encouraged to turn off non-essential lights, such as computers, printers and power bars at the end of the work day on Friday. Students in residences are also being encouraged to power down.

"This is a great event in that it highlights the small things people can do to conserve energy," said Ashley Taylor, the sustainability co-ordinator for the St. George campus.The first Earth Hour originated in Sydney, Australia last year and saw more than two million businesses and households take part. This year, Earth Hour is truly a global event spanning six continents.Tim Lang, sustainability co-ordinator at U of T Scarborough, said that while the hour will not make huge strides in energy conservation, it's an important step for increasing awareness. "The next step is to further mobilize people to actually work on initiatives that are actually are going to do something about climate change." Lang is also encouraging members of the university community to participate in the event from their homes on Saturday evening.

The environmental project co-ordinator at U of T Mississauga, Aubrey Iwaniw, agrees that the very act of participation can help build sustainable behaviors. "It's that one trigger that might get someone who may not have done anything before, to be a good environmental citizen. It's raising our environmental consciousness."

Sisam points to U of T's participation in the event as just one example of how energy conservation has entered the consciousness of the university community. "With U of T's new budget model, the responsibility for the maintenance of the buildings has been taken over by the divisions. The responsibility of energy, its use and its conservation, has entered into the awareness of the community."

The Rewire program which aims to empower students living in residence to reduce their energy consumption through simple changes is another way the university is making a difference. The program, now in its second year, has been adopted by seven residence buildings on the St. George campus and encourages students to turn off lights, computers, printers, power bars – types of power Taylor calls "user-mediated" because they are not centrally controlled (i.e. heating and ventilation). "We have seen a 10 to 13 per cent decrease in user-mediated energy in buildings in the Rewire program," said Taylor.

A major lighting retrofit replacing old energy-wasting bulbs with greener more efficient bulbs is also taking place in various U of T buildings, said Taylor.To learn more about energy saving activities happening across U of T’s three campuses, visit:

St. George -

U of T Scarborough - 

U of T Mississauga -



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