SF killed lights over weekend
October 25, 2007 7:15 PM
While San Franciscans were out this past Saturday night having a drink in North Beach or sauntering the Embarcadero they may have noticed the lights were out on the Bay Bridge and Coit Tower, it wasn’t a hallucination from the red wine.
It was a city-wide movement entitled Lights Out SF, to promote energy conservation and energy efficient light bulbs.
This was the first annual Lights Out SF event for the city, and it took place October 20th, between 8 and 9 pm. Individual homes and businesses as well as iconic structures such as the Golden Gate Bridge and SF City Hall turned off all non-essential lighting to promote energy efficiency over time.
“We [Lights Out SF] were going to all these buildings and talking to them, and they were very open to this idea,” said Nathan Tyler, the 38-year-old event founder. “We were targeting the large ones [iconic buildings], for they are symbols, people look to the larger institutions for guidance and to see what to do.”
According to Lights Out SF’s Web site the organization distributed over 110,000 free compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) across the city by means of event volunteers and two donated vegetable oil powered buses. PG&E and Yahoo! donated over 210,000 CFLs for distribution in city neighborhoods in the weeks prior to the event.
The Lights Out Web site said more than 600 nine-watt bulbs were shut off on the string of lights that frame the Bay Bridge alone, which saved 10.8 kilowatts of energy.
Safety was not compromised, however as street lights remained on to guide motorists and flashing navigation lights kept all planes and ships from crashing into the bridge. Caltrans and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority endorsed the event. The Transit Authority, the owners and operators of the Golden Gate Bridge, shut down to show how much energy can be saved in a single hour.
The Golden Gate Transit Authority said that the City of San Francisco felt turning out the lights on the Golden Gate Bridge was something they could do, a study, to see how much power could be saved.
The same day there was a party in Dolores Park from 5-9 pm, powered solely by the veggie-powered buses and featured live music, food and string quartet bands.
Jens-Peter Jungclaussen, founder of Teacherwithabus.com, operates a bus that is a self-sufficient, veggie-oil fueled, solar power plant with up to 14 kilowatt output and a modular interior. His second bus has a traditional school bus interior that is biodiesel fueled and solar powered.
Jungclaussen has a Masters degree in education and has ten years of experience in teaching from kindergarten to college.
“I want to send the message that being environmentally friendly is fun,” Jungclaussen said.
“I was teaching 15-20 kids, and I had to reach a bigger audience. The event in Dolores Park was completely run off of solar energy, lights and everything, and we were overlooking the entire city on top of the park—it was really cool,” said Jungclaussen.
Jungclaussen uses his buses to provide transportation for everything from field trips to movie screenings, art galleries, corporate events and engagement parties.
Tyler was inspired to start this event when he attended something similar in Sydney, Australia. He started the movement with one single web page and called everyone he knew.
“We are hoping to get everyone in San Francisco to turn out their lights for an hour and to install one energy efficient light bulb,” he said.
Last week they had a practice run on the 15th of October to smooth out any glitches, and on Saturday evening people gathered to have neighborhood block parties, candle-lit acoustic shows in their living rooms with friends- even beach bonfire sing-a-longs.
Brianna Warren, a 22-year-old event volunteer that was handing out bulbs and information on campus, hosted her own Lights Out SF party in the Mission District. From their high rise windows they could see most of the city and the Bay Bridge. They had lit candles and a jack o’ lantern, and even the lights had been turned off—the room stayed dark to keep the spirit going.
Even though it was a bit delayed, excitement grew in the room as they party-goers saw sections of lights go dark on the Bay Bridge in the otherwise illuminated city after 8 p.m.
“The cause we were supporting was actually in action,” Warren said of the lights going off on the bridge. “We were a part of something big happening in the city.”
Ryan Scott, the event organizer, says that this is the first time it has happened in North America.
“We have been very successful in promoting this,” Scott said. “There was a lot of outreach to youth, church and environmental organizations.”
Lights Out SF says turning the lights out in San Francisco for even an hour could save as much as 15 percent of the energy consumed on the average Saturday night. They held the event in October for it is typically warmer and less foggy than other times of the year in the city. Another reason being that school is back in session and it is a way for the organization to reach out to schools and make kids aware of energy conservation.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, humans are greatly contributing to the release of greenhouse gases that are changing the earth’s atmosphere, and the burning of fossil fuels creates and releases large amounts of CO2. This rising concentration of greenhouse gases contributes to warming of the planet, and this is where humans can step in and greatly reduce their carbon footprint.
If you missed out on this year’s party in the dark, you can still get involved by installing one CFL bulb in your home or business and by checking out www.lightsoutsf.org.
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