On the last Saturday in March for the past nine years, people across 120 countries and 24 time zones have collectively turned off the lights between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. It’s a symbolic gesture designed to inspire action to combat climate change, but assistant professor Leo Wong says it could be much more.
“Earth Hour is a good excuse to talk about energy consumption on a personal level, but energy savings in the city during that hour have been pretty nominal in the past,” explains the School of Business faculty member, whose Intro to Non-Profit Management students have been working with the City of Edmonton for the last three years to promote Earth Hour. “Motivating people to reduce their energy use is a marketing issue—one that we’re now turning to technology to address.”
From a kernel of an idea to environmental action
Expanding on an idea from last year’s business students to take the City of Edmonton’s Earth Hour marketing efforts online, Leo reached out to faculty members Sharon Bratt and Indratmo in computer science to help create a web-based tracking tool.
The new website builds on a prototype created in Fall 2014 by students in Sharon’s fourth-year Mobile Application Development course that acted as a storyboard for the final version of the site, which was coded by faculty member Indratmo. MyEarthHour.ca allows Edmontonians to join activities, collect points for completing those activities and see how their results compare to other users.
It’s a tool that also has potential on a global scale—Earth Hour organizer World Wildlife Fund (WWF) currently has an online tool for listing events, but there isn’t a digital method for participants to track their own environmental behaviours.
“The myEarthHour.ca website is scalable, easy to administer and could provide a good foundation for creating a tool that could be adopted on an international scale—one that all cities could use to manage their own campaigns. Right now we’re focusing on building momentum and a generating a solid group of users so we can demonstrate that this is something WWF may want to support.”
You can help—visit MyEarthHour.ca
MyEarthHour.ca will be live until Earth Day (April 22), giving Edmontonians a full month to track their progress in cutting back on kilowatts.
When the website goes dark after a full month online, it’s really just the beginning. Leo says they’ll use the data they collect to do more testing, upgrade the website, look for sponsors and continue to grow the online presence for Earth Hour 2016. The project will also make an appearance in the university’s business and computer science classrooms next year.
“This has been a great collaboration and we will continue to build on that,” says Leo. “It’s a project that brings the real world into the classroom, and the students have done great work. The fact that Earth Hour happens during the semester means that students not only get to apply concepts they learn in class, they also get to see the results and measure outcomes, and make a contribution to the community at the same time.”
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