Lights Out Martha’s Vineyard? “I saw something on TV about it,” drawled the NStar service representative. When he learned it was scheduled for 8:30 p.m., he scoffed, “You can’t do it on Saturday night. Everyone’s home watching TV.”
That’s the point.
Also called Earth House, Lights Out was conceived in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, when more than two million adherents reportedly turned off their lights for an hour. Last year the effort encompassed the world with an estimated 50 million participants, including residents of the Vineyard. This year the goal is to entice a billion people to follow to a simple goal: go for an hour without electricity.
At press time, 2,712 cities and 83 countries were involved.
Lights Out Martha’s Vineyard is an effort to raise awareness about our use of energy. Organizers have planned several communal activities — because friends don’t let friends sap energy during Earth Hour — but suggest you can plan a candlelit dinner with friends or family at home, too.
NStar media spokesman Mike Durand gets it: “I’m familiar with the effort. I think Lights Out is a good first step because it brings awareness to the issue. Beyond that, there are a couple of simple things which will save energy and money for the homeowner.”
Such as? Shutting off room lights not in use and switching from incandescent to compact fluorescent lights bulbs — which use 75 per cent less energy and last 10 times longer, Mr. Durand added. He confirms the basic premise of Lights Out: “It is designed as a first step and it makes people aware.”
Some people are using pedal-powered light bulbs or hosting candlelit dinners to spread the word.
Suzanne Slarsky Dael said there is a good deal of momentum behind this year’s Lights Out Martha’s Vineyard, which is co-sponsored by the Vineyard Conservation Society with Felix Neck and Vineyard Energy Project. “Last year’s efforts were a great success,” she said.
Marnie Stanton of Vineyard Conservation Society, said organizers are hoping to get more Islanders to take up the challenge.
“This should be the beginning of the process of saving energy,” Ms. Stanton says. “Plug into a power strip, then turn it off when not in use. Ride your bike, turn off the lights.
“It’s really time to pull our heads out of the sand,” about energy savings, she said. “There are concrete things to do. Conserving energy will make a huge difference.”
Last year Ms. Stanton went for a Light Out walk at Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, and she plans to do the same this year.
Felix Neck director Suzan Bellincampi runs the walk, which begins before the lights go out, at 8 p.m.
“I think of it as a celebration of the Island’s darkness,” Ms. Bellincampi said. “Come to see and hear wild animals. We have a female barn owl sitting on three eggs. Hear the woodcock — I saw one the other night — and perhaps hear our first pinkletinks.”
The walk is open to everybody. “Last year we had 20 to 25 people,” she said, suggesting that it’s fun to get together in the dark. “It’s nice to be with people. It’s more communal. I feel there’s power in numbers, with people doing their part.”
There is a charge of $6 for nonmembers, or $3 for members.
Kaysea Cole-Hart of Vineyard Conservation Society advocates energy-savings measures such as installing motion sensors or timers on outdoor lighting, plus requesting an energy audit (from the Cape Light Compact) and following the recommendations. But begin with one hour on Saturday evening.
“Flip the switch, and do your part for the planet while you enjoy a cozy candlelight hour,” said Ms. Cole-Hart, who plans a candlelit dinner with friends.
The United States has five per cent of the world’s population, yet uses 25 per cent of its energy.
The Vineyard Energy Project co-sponsors Lights Out for the first time, according to education coordinator Kara Gelinas. “I cover the school aspect,” she says, which means canvassing, putting up posters and getting the information out in both English and Portuguese.
She likes the idea of a candlelit vigil at Five Corners, but maybe not until next year. She heard that Boston joined Lights Out this year after hearing about the Vineyard’s success last year. “We shamed them into doing it,” she says. “That’s pretty cool.”
The Martha’s Vineyard Film Society is screening a movie ironically entitled The End of Suburbia, which deals with a future of energy depletion. The film is free at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury on Saturday night. Co-sponsored by the Ag Society, the film night begins with a potluck dinner at 6 p.m. Bring a dish for six.
The gathering will celebrate with a minute of darkness at the onset of the film, around 8 p.m., and lights will be out — except for the projector bulb.
When the lights go out Saturday night, Susan Desmarais is hosting a party. “I’m planning on candles, supplemented by LED Christmas lights if necessary. We will not use any electric or propane sources,” she said, adding: “I am thinking that as a family we will start doing this once a week.”
For details about the Felix Neck Lights Out guided night walk, call 508-627-4850, extension 100; about the potluck and film, go online to mvfilmsociety.com; for updates on Lights Out Martha’s Vineyard generally, see online almanac.vcsmv.org; and for the worldwide view, go to earthhour.org.