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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

San Francisco Lights Out

Air Date: Week of

The San Francisco skyline will be dark for one hour on October 20. (Courtesy of NASA)

Nate Tyler wants his fellow San Franciscans to turn out the lights for an hour on October 20th to highlight the problem of high energy consumption and its contribution to global warming. Tyler talks with host Steve Curwood about his Lights Out San Francisco campaign.


CURWOOD: A while back Nate Tyler was in Sydney, Australia when the lights went out. This hour of darkness was actually planned by environmental advocates to call attention to the problem of high-energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. The down under Earth Hour inspired Nate to launch his own campaign for an hour of darkness in his hometown of San Francisco. So, Lights Out San Francisco will take place on October 20th. And the motto: “Good things happen in the dark.”

TYLER: So we’re going to distribute lots of free compact fluorescent light bulbs throughout the city, we are going to encourage people to turn off their lights for an hour between eight and nine that night. We’re working with local restaurants here to throw candlelight dinners throughout the city and we’re going to host a celebration, sort of a candlelight celebration in Dolores Park.

CURWOOD: Who’s responding to this? When you get hits on your website and all that, who says they’re in and ‘this is really cool?’

Nate Tyler is founder of Lights Out San Francisco.(Courtesy Nate Tyler)

TYLER: So we’re getting lots of companies; companies like Safeway have signed up, Esurance has signed up; the Golden Gate Bridge, for instance, has agreed to turn off the nonessential lights on the bridge; the Bay Bridge; Alcatraz, the lights on Alcatraz; City Hall. The response that we’re getting is overwhelmingly positive and everybody wants to participate in some way or another. And I think that’s just because it’s so easy and it’s such a positive thing and easy thing for people to do.

CURWOOD: So, this seems to be an exciting project that’s taking off.

TYLER: It is taking off. So since launching Lights Out San Francisco our plan was always to make San Francisco a template that we could use in cities throughout the country. So, in conjunction with the folks in Sidney we are launching LightsOutAmerica.org, which is essentially targeting 15 cities throughout the country to turn off their lights on March 29th of next year.

CURWOOD: So how much electricity do you think you can save as a result of this one hour of darkness in downtown San Francisco?

The San Francisco skyline will be dark for one hour on October 20.(Courtesy of NASA)

TYLER: So in Sidney they estimated that they saved ten percent of an average Saturday night’s energy consumption, which was the equivalent of taking like 48,000 cars off the road for an hour. We’re hoping to achieve a similar result here in San Francisco except we’re shooting for a 15 percent energy savings, as compared to a ten percent energy savings.

CURWOOD: San Francisco’s a little smaller than Sidney, though.

TYLER: Yeah, it’s a smaller city but we’re also handing out 100,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs and there is an ongoing benefit there.

CURWOOD: What do you think will happen that will change people’s minds during this Lights Out San Francisco?

TYLER: I think it’s a great opportunity for people to pause for a moment and think about energy consumption and then to hopefully have some fun. I mean, I grew up on the East Coast and often times in the winter there were snow days and on those days when we didn’t go to school it was always a great opportunity for everybody to come out of their houses and shovel their front walk and shovel the front walk of their neighbors. I think it’d be fun for folks to turn off their lights and maybe sit on their front stoop and look up into the sky, and hopefully if all the lights go out they can see more stars that night.

CURWOOD: No unintended consequences? I remember the great blackouts here on the East Coast. You know, nine months later there seemed to be a lot of babies that came along.

TYLER: (laughs) Yeah, I mean, yeah. Good things do happen in the dark, for sure.

CURWOOD: Nate Tyler is founder of Lights Out San Francisco. For more information about the Lights Out America campaign, visit our website: www.loe.org.



Lights Out San Francisco: October 20, 2007

Lights Out America: March 29, 2008


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