Activists ask public to turn lights out

Dozens of activists — driven by a pair of vegetable diesel-powered buses and by a shared urgency about wasted energy and its weather-changing consequences — handed out free low-energy light bulbs Sunday and urged San Franciscans to switch their lights out for one hour next weekend.

“I’m spending my Sunday giving my energy to save energy,” said 20-year-old Meg Barrager, one of roughly 35 volunteers who banded together Sunday to promote the inaugural energy-saving initiative by nonprofit Lights Out San Francisco. “If I only turned out my own lights, it wouldn’t make much of a difference.”

Barrager said passers-by were “thrilled” to receive the free bulbs, and that next week’s inaugural Lights Out San Francisco event is now “on the radar.”

City buildings will switch off unneeded lights between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, after the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in August to support the hour of darkness.

Organizer Brian Scott said he hopes to convince city businesses and building owners to take part. “We’re working with restaurants to get them to do candlelit dinners,” he said.

More than 100 cities have already contacted Lights Out San Francisco, according to Scott, leading the group to plan a national lights-out event on March 29 to coincide with a similar event in Australia.

“If we can make this an international event, and have every time zone go out as the time zone kind of waves through,” Scott said, “that would be a pretty awesome event, and it would send a great message.”

Australian organizers said in a statement earlier this year that energy and survey data showed more than 2 million Sydney-siders helped create a 10.2 percent drop in energy use across the “usually glittering” city when they switched off their lights and appliances for an hour.

jupton@examiner.com

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