Grab your flashlights: Virginia Beach to ‘power down’ for Earth Hour

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VIRGINIA BEACH – Lights around the city are scheduled to go out a little earlier than usual on Saturday as businesses and residents alike celebrate the 11th annual Earth Hour.

Created in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, Earth Hour organizers asked citizens across the globe to go dark in support of fighting climate change.

Starting at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, the city will turn off all non-essential lights and structures to curb energy consumption for one full hour.

In the flick of a switch, the spotlights illuminating the city seal at Mount Trashmore, the outdoor reflective artwork along Princess Anne and Dam Neck Road will darken and the fountain at Town Center will come to a standstill.

Mark Podolinsky, a specialist from the energy management office, said that this is the city’s fourth year participating in the hour-long event. After seeing images of silhouetted skylines in bigger cities from previous years, Podolinsky wanted to get Virginia Beach involved.

“After seeing the before-and-after pictures in these giant cities worldwide,” Podolinsky said, “I knew we needed to go in that direction.”

Mayor Will Sessoms signed a proclamation asking citizens to power down and consider their ecological impact. Dozens of businesses have signed up to support Podolinsky’s initiative.

Though Podolinsky is responsible for getting the city government involved, he said one Virginia Beach business owner started participating long before he started the city campaign.

Croc’s 19th Street Bistro started holding candlelit dinners for Earth Day in 2008 after they were the first local restaurant to join Virginia Green, a program that worked to reduce environmental impacts and increase awareness.

In addition to having a candlelit dinner this year, owner Laura Habr said they’ll incorporate an Earth-friendly menu, serve cocktails featuring fresh herbs from their own garden and locally made liquor and bottles of wine in which the proceeds are donated to environmental causes.

Habr said she has several diners that come in every year to support the cause, but she said this year is much more important than years past.

“When I think of some of the environmental and conservation efforts, and we see the new administration coming in and cutting funding for the EPA and climate change research,” Habr said, “I think that the message is going to resonate with a lot more people.”

Instead of bringing the lights back up at 9:30 p.m., Habr said she leaves them off for the evening, using only candles to light the dining room.

Several hotels along the oceanfront will also turn off nonessential lights for the time period. Many have even encouraged their guests to join in.

Stacey Shiflet, managing director of the Virginia Beach Resort Hotel and Conference Center, said that guests can eat dinner by candlelight, enjoy board games in the lobby under lanterns and play with glow sticks.

Coastal Hospitality Associates own seven oceanfront hotels. Spokesperson Russell Lyons said that due tournaments at the beach, it’s going to be a busy weekend for their properties. They’ve also encouraged their guests to participate, Lyons said, and will offer glow-in-the-dark cocktails and candlelit dinners.

Podolinsky said for residents that want to participate, all they have to do is power off any devices or lights they won’t need for the specified hour and use the time to talk with their families about why they’re doing so.

“Plan a family game night or take the time to teach kids about energy efficiency,” Podolinsky said. “Take the hour to disconnect and spread awareness.”

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