World will give the Earth a break tonight

Guilford boy, 11, helps spur local participation in 1 hour of conserving energy

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
March 29, 2008

A Guilford boy is encouraging his friends, family and all Connecticut residents to turn their lights off at 8 tonight as part of Earth Hour, a worldwide effort to conserve energy.

Ian Zane, 11, has been speaking at his school and church and sending letters to local newspapers to get the word out about the event. His family’s business, Zane’s Cycles in Branford, is supporting the cause.

Towns around Connecticut are also promoting Earth Hour and asking residents to switch off their lights tonight. Bridgeport has registered with Earth Hour’s Web site, along with more than 30 other U.S. cities and towns and the state of New York.

The first Earth Hour took place last year in Sydney, Australia, when 2.2 million people turned out their lights for one hour. Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix and San Francisco are the official U.S. partner cities for the effort this year.

Ian, a sixth-grader at The Country School in Madison, said he became aware of Earth Hour about six months ago while visiting the Web site for the World Wildlife Fund, which started the event last year.

“In the past I’ve been very interested with global warming and emissions and the problems with CO2,” Ian said. “I looked into it and I’m like, ‘Wow, that makes a lot of sense.’”

Ian recruited his father, Chris Zane, to help with his cause. The family’s bike store now features a large banner promoting Earth Hour, and Ian plans to hand out postcards at the business’ annual sale this weekend.

Zane’s Cycles also signed up as an official supporter of Earth Hour at the event’s Web site, earthhour.org.

“That’s kind of in line with what we are, we’re a recreation business that’s involved with the outdoors,” Zane said. “I thought that would be a pretty neat thing if we could get involved.”

Zane is building a new facility for Zane’s Cycles, which will include 160 solar panels on the roof. At home in Guilford, he said, the family tries to turn off lights and unplug electronic chargers that aren’t in use, and they installed timed thermostats to regulate energy use.

In Madison, the town’s Energy Committee is planning Earth Awareness Month, which kicks off tonight with Earth Hour. The events continue through April 22 and include a “clean energy parade” and hybrid car show April 20.

Dean Plummer, chairman of the Energy Committee, said this is the first year the town has organized Earth Awareness Month. The Board of Selectmen recently passed a proclamation encouraging residents to participate in Earth Hour, and the town is planning to turn off nonessential lights in municipal buildings tonight.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for folks to be a little bit more in touch with the energy they’re using,” Plummer said. “Saving energy always is a good thing.”

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch is asking homeowners and businesses to participate tonight. The town became involved when the Student Council at Columbus Elementary School brought it to the mayor’s attention, press secretary Kaitlin Lesnick said.

“It raises awareness about global climate change and the mayor is very determined to lower Bridgeport’s carbon footprint,” she said. “The actual act of turning off your nonessential lights for one hour, it is something that saves energy, but it makes sort of a statement.”

Lesnick said that the city turns off almost all nonessential lights in government buildings over every weekend, but the mayor sent employees an e-mail Friday asking them to switch off all computers and printers and to participate at home tonight.

Ian, the Guilford boy, said his goal has been to let people know about different ways they can conserve energy.

Earth Hour takes place across the world at 8 local time tonight.

“That’s the point, it’s pretty easy for people to save power and reduce their emissions, so the fact that people aren’t doing it just means they’re not aware,” Ian said. “This is to make them aware.”

Earth Hour takes place across the world at 8 local time tonight.

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