By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Mar 28, 2009 at 8:39 AM

In terms of helping the environment, this is about the easiest thing you can do. You turn off all the non-essential lighting and electronics in your home or business for an hour today, Saturday, March 28, and bam! you've just participated in Earth Hour, a global effort to raise awareness of climate change.

Note that this is not a total blackout, but rather a symbolic hour-long dimming of any power not needed for emergency situations. And although it's a world-wide event, it works in a New Year's Eve fashion -- as each time zone reaches 8:30 p.m., participants power down until 9: 30 p.m.

Earth Hour started in Sydney, Australia in 2007 and was pioneered by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia and the Sydney Morning Herald. By the next year, 35 countries around the world participated with than 400 cities supporting.

Earth Hour 2009 has more than doubled with 82 countries and more than 2,100 cities participating. Milwaukee is on the list.

More than anything, Earth Hour is a symbolic event. While some cities saw a measurable reduction in electricity use -- Christchurch, New Zealand reported a13 percent drop in electricity demand last year -- the main point of participation is to unite people, companies and governments around the world. Earth Hour in itself will not lower our carbon footprint, rather it sends a signal to those in a place of power that we as individuals and communities demand action.

"Participating in Earth Hour is your chance to have a say on the direction our planet is heading," says Stacy London of TLC's "What Not To Wear."

"It's like voting in an election, only easier and I encourage the world to join in. With every light you turn off you are signaling that you want your elected officials to take lasting action on this crisis. And just think about how much fun you can have in the dark!"

Here is a video about Earth Hour.








Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”