City businesses participate in annual 'Earth Hour'

Some plan to sacrifice business for the effort

COLUMBIA, Mo. -  As part of the international effort to reduce energy consumption, Columbia will participate in the annual "Earth Hour."

According to the Office of Sustainability's website, "Earth Hour" is the single largest environmental event in the world as lights go out simultaneously in what's considered a "wave of darkness."

Columbia is just one of more than 5,000 cities across the world in more than 135 countries participating in the event since 2008.

This event began at 8:30 p.m. Saturday evening where Columbia residents and businesses turned out the lights and unplugged non-essential electronics.

According to Columbia Water and Light, last year's event reduced energy consumption by two megawatts - the equivalent of 80 homes in Columbia going without electricity for 24 hours.

ABC 17 talked to some restaurants and other businesses downtown that said they could not participate because they depend on electricity to operate.

Gunther's Games' owner Wesley Upchurch told ABC 17 he wasn't aware of the hour-long event. Even though his business requires electricity to power all 35 game machines in his arcade, Upchurch said he planned to participate anyway.

"If we can make a demonstration by taking an hour and closing it down for that one hour, then I think it's a good thing," Upchurch said.

Other areas in Columbia that darkened their buildings were the City Hall offices, University of Missouri's Jesse Hall and The Broadway downtown. Nicole Schweinsberg, catering manager at The Broadway, said they turned out the lights in their rooftop area as well as the main lobby and other public spaces.

"We'll also be turning off the lights in our restaurant 11-11 and guests will be enjoying dinner by candlelight," Schweinsberg said.

A spokesperson for the Columbia Municipal Power Plant said they will calculate the energy savings results from Saturday's event on Monday.

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