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Lights Out! Earth Hour 2009 Is Approaching

By Samantha Abernethy in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 26, 2009 9:20PM

Photo of Chicago during Earth Hour 2008 by B Bretz

A global initiative created by the World Wildlife Fund, Earth Hour encourages individuals and businesses to turn off their lights for one hour to make a statement about conservation and climate change. This year's Earth Hour will take place this Saturday, March 28, starting at 8:30 p.m. The event started in Sydney, Australia in 2007, and it became a global event in 2008, with participants in 35 different countries and over 400 cities. This year it has grown even more with the WWF hoping to reach 1 billion participants worldwide. Already 2,500 cities in 82 countries have committed to participate.

Last year Chicago was the flagship city for the U.S., with major locations like the Sears Tower, the Hancock Center, and the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel going dark. Theater marquees went dark, and McDonald's shut off 500 golden arches, too. They estimate that about 2.7 million people in Chicago participated last year, and ComEd reported a 5 percent decrease in energy usage during that hour.

Chicago is a key city again this year, but it has a lot more company this time. Last year just four U.S. cities officially participated--San Francisco, Atlanta, Phoenix and Chicago. This year many more areas are jumping on board as key cities, including New York City, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Every city that is home to one of our sister 'Ist sites is participating. Check the map on the Earth Hour website to see which cities are participating.

As of now, almost every local college and university has signed on to participate, and some local restaurants and bars are expressing their support, too, by creating candlelit events for the occasion. Berry Chill is donating 50 percent of its sales during Earth Hour to the WWF. In nearby Batavia, the city has organized a river walk and are taking the opportunity to do some star gazing. Check out this interactive map to find an event near you.

WWF also encourages people to register their support online and to help petition governments to participate. The event takes place at 8:30 p.m., local time in each city, starting in Christchurch New Zealand. You can also follow information on Earth Hour in Chicago on Twitter, and they've created an Earth Hour Chicago Flickr group for photogs to share after the event.