Shut down for one hour

What is the most energy-conscious area in the Cowichan Valley? If you want it to be yours, mark Saturday, March 29 on your calendar and pull out some candles for the 8:30-9:30 p.m. hour.

Earth Hour challenges people to turn off as many power-sucking devices as possible in their homes and businesses in this annual global event hosted by the World Wildlife Fund and supported by BC Hydro.

Cowichan’s municipalities have always jumped on the challenge.

The City of Duncan is ready to power down.

"We’ve gotten better every year," said Duncan City Councillor Sharon Jackson. "We turn the lights off at City Hall and public works and anything extra."

This Earth Hour falls during the Duncan Fire Department’s spousal appreciation night.

"I’m wondering if we’re going to be sitting there with candles on the table," Jackson laughed.

But there’s a serious side. "Every hour should be Earth Hour," Jackson said. "How we used to waste electricity was inconceivable in this day and age – leaving all the lights on in all the rooms, in case you go into the basement. We can’t live like that anymore and so it’s just formalizing something that should be happening every hour of every day, really."

In 2013 North Cowichan residents and businesses saved 7.7 per cent electricity during Earth Hour, while in the City of Duncan the number was 7.8 per cent and the Town of Ladysmith hit 7.3 per cent.

The communities of Comox and Courtenay outdid Cowichan last year with a saving of almost 10 per cent.

"Can we improve our participation for 2014?" North Cowichan asks.

"I am confident that the citizens of North Cowichan will respond to this challenge," said Mayor Jon Lefebure. "I’m certainly hoping we can surpass our previous energy reductions in last year and the year before and perhaps we can instill some energysaving habits in our daily life that we learn in that hour when we shut things off that don’t need to be on.

"I’m thinking of things with little lights in them that warn us that they’re just waiting for us and use energy and computers that we can shut down overnight and so on," he said. "There’s lots of things we can do and I hope we do them on Earth Hour and carry on with them past that hour."