COUNTDOWN TO EARTH HOUR (ET):
At 8:30 PM Saturday, some of the world's most famous landmarks will go dark for Earth Hour 2012. From the Empire State Building to the Great Wall of China, non-essential lighting will be turned off at important locations around the globe.
Earth Hour, a global initiative led by World Wildlife Fund, encourages individuals around the world to shut off their lights on Saturday March 31 for one hour, beginning at 8:30 PM in each time zone.
The event, according to its organizers, is meant to raise awareness for climate change and to encourage "support for environmentally sustainable action."
Andy Ridley, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Earth Hour, said in a press release, “In 2012, Earth Hour is reaching further and wider than ever before and these landmarks will provide a visually spectacular reminder of what can be done when individuals, organisations and governments act together.
In addition to buildings, landmarks and individuals, the International Space Station will also participate in Earth Hour, as its crew watches the world's lights dim from above.
Even the National Hockey League will be taking part in Earth Hour. All 30 NHL teams have pledged to dim the lights on Saturday, including the 20 clubs that will be on the ice that evening. Bernadette Mansur, SVP of NHL Green, said in a press release, "For the NHL, the success of this event is about more than turning the lights off for one hour. It is about changing the way our sport approaches energy consumption."
As HuffPost blogger Maggie Koerth-Baker notes, Earth Hour isn't about rejecting modern technology or tallying the energy saved from one hour per year.
"The problem isn't individual choices," she argues. Rather, it is "infrastructures that often limit our energy choices and incentivize wasting energy rather than conserving it."
Earth Hour began in Sydney, Australia in 2007 and has grown in subsequent years. According to the initiative's website, 2011's Earth Hour was observed in over 5,200 cities and towns in 135 countries. Earth Hour's website reported Friday that a record 147 countries and territories are preparing to take part in the event.
When observing Earth Hour, it is important to think about the ways you can save energy year-round. According to the EPA, in 2011, 41 percent of all U.S. carbon emissions came from electricity generation.
Overall domestic energy usage in the U.S. has decreased slightly in the past three decades, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, but the percentage of electricity used by "appliances and electronics in U.S. homes has nearly doubled from 17 percent to 31 percent."
Click here for a children's Earth Hour activity book from Pocoyo filled with ideas for observing Earth Hour on Saturday. Below, find Pocoyo's tips for saving energy year-round.
WATCH the official Earth Hour 2012 video: