Note: This story originally published on Coca-Cola Journey Great Britain.
This year is Earth Hour’s 10th anniversary. To celebrate, we’ve put together a timeline showing how Earth Hour has grown over the past decade, and what made each year special in the UK.
On March 31, 2007 at 7:30pm local time, more than 2 million people switched off their lights for one hour in Sydney, Australia. With the flick of a few million switches, Earth Hour began. Today, a decade later, WWF’s Earth Hour is the world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment.
Earth Hour’s goal is to bring people, communities, governments and the world together to change climate change, and since that first hour back in 2007, it has brought together a whole lot of people.
To celebrate Earth Hour’s 10th anniversary, here’s a look at Earth Hour’s journey from one city to 179 countries.
In 2004, a team from WWF Australia and an Australian advertising agency wanted to find a way to engage the people of Australia to act on the issue of climate change. Three years later, after lots of planning and research, 2.2 million people in Sydney, one of the world’s brightest, busiest cities, switched off their lights for an hour. The rest, as they say, is history.
When 2.2 million people switch off their lights simultaneously, it doesn’t go unnoticed. In fact, it gets a lot of attention. The following year, 34 more countries, and 371 cities in total, took part in Earth Hour, including the UK. Word had spread, and Earth Hour was beginning to make a name for itself across the world.
In 2009, WWF and Earth Hour took things to the next level, and word spread even further. A total of 88 countries, 4,000 cities and millions of people took part in what was now a truly global event. More people came together, more events took place and more lights were switched off – including the lights at the United Nations Headquarters in New York!
More countries (we’re already up to 128 in total by 2010) meant more famous landmarks switching off. Over the first four years of Earth Hour, everywhere from the Sydney Opera House, to the London City Hall and even the Colosseum went dark. In 2010, we switched off a number of Coca-Cola landmarks around the world to show our support. There’s nothing quite like seeing such well known locations in a whole new (non-existent) light.
In 2011, while 135 countries switched off, London’s Royal Albert Hall lit up. But, don’t worry… it was done in a suitably Earth-friendly way. A group of 60 cyclists pedalled as hard as they could to keep a people-powered projector running. The projection lit up London’s world famous venue with a film showing the importance of protecting our planet. This event perfectly summed up what Earth Hour is all about: people uniting to protect the planet.
The people-powered Earth Hour playbook had even more to give in 2012. In fact, it had a lot to sing and dance about. 2012 was a year of celebration, with 152 countries coming together to change climate change. In the UK, musicians played acoustic gigs across the country, and a people-powered dancefloor brought some light to the party.
Earth Hour continued to grow, with 157 countries involved. In the UK, local "hidden heroes" of sustainability were rewarded in 2013. These hidden heroes were people working hard behind the scenes to tackle sustainability and environmental issues in schools, workplaces or their local community. The winners were all invited to an exclusive ceremony and received £500 towards a green initiative of their choice. Not all heroes wear capes, but if these ones did… they’d probably be green.
In 2014, as 162 countries took part in Earth Hour, 60 pandas were unleashed across the UK taking selfies as part of the #PassThePanda campaign. These photogenic pandas helped to raise awareness for Earth Hour and WWF’s global projects, and undoubtedly brought a smile to a lot of UK faces. And, before you ask... they were people in panda costumes.
In 2015, an incredible 172 countries took part, but it was a special year for the UK in particular. The UK broke its own record for the number of people getting involved in the hour, with 10.4 million people taking part.
Last year saw two things; 179 countries go dark for an hour, and a whole lot of people chatting on social media. It’s safe to say Earth Hour took over the social sphere at the start of 2016, with the hashtag generating more than 2.5 billion impressions in the months leading up to the event. Earth Hour didn’t just unite people around the world; it brought the world of social media together as well.
More than an hour
As we get ready for the 2017 event, it’s important to remember that Earth Hour is more than one hour a year; it’s part of a year-round movemetnt looking to protect our planet.
Earth Hour doesn’t just get people to take action on climate change; it works to help people all over the world. It provided families in India with solar power. It gave communities affected by typhoon Haiyan climate-smart boats. Earth Hour and the WWF are constantly working to help planet Earth.
Earth Hour is happening March 25, 2017 at 8:30 p.m. local time. So save the date, spread the word and let’s make this a record-breaking year.
On that note, it’s time for us to switch off.
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