Madison officials are calling on all residents to turn out their lights this weekend as part of the environmental initiative, “Lights out America.”

On Saturday, cities worldwide will turn out the lights to save energy and combat global warming.

Ald. Tim Gruber, District 11, proposed the resolution that asks for all city government buildings to turn off all nonessential lights between 8 and 9 p.m. Saturday evening.

The City Council agreed in a unanimous vote to participate in the environmental initiative.

Lights to be turned off include hallway and decorative lights as well as lights in any unoccupied places.

“Turning off lights will save energy and increase awareness about the importance of conserving energy,” a release from the City of Madison website said.

According to the release, the hour is aimed at Madison’s electricity drain powered by burning coal.

“I hope we do this all the time anyway, and if not, we can improve,” Gruber said.

George Twigg, spokesperson for Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, said city staff were ordered to use only essential lights during the indicated time.

The City Council is also hoping surrounding Madison businesses and residents take part in the environmental event and turn off all their lights.

“A lot of media has contacted us, so it seems like the word is getting out,” Twigg said.

The Sydney branch of the World Wildlife Fund created the global event, Earth Hour in 2007. In just one year, Earth Hour has spread into a worldwide effort.

According to Earthhour.org, the event’s website, “Millions of people, businesses, governments and civic organizations in nearly 200 cities around the globe will turn out for Earth Hour.” Half these cities are located in North America, the site said.

The site said participating in Earth Hour will prove “you care about our planet and want to play a part in helping to fight climate change.”

Univeristy of Wisconsin journalism professor Dominique Brossard said alternative forms of communication, such as the Internet, are great ways to get word out instead of traditional forms of communication.

Brossard said Facebook added an Earth Hour application and numerous groups have been created to spread information for Saturday’s event.

Everyone should realize that little acts, such as turning off your electricity for an hour, can ultimately have a huge impact on the climate, Brossard added.

According to Brossard, “Lights Out America” is a great way for everyone to take small steps to reduce harmful acts that lead to global warming.

Madison officials are hoping to take a leading role in Earth Hour, the release said. Madison will be among other major U.S. cities like Chicago, Atlanta, Phoenix and San Fransisco in the global movement to turn the lights off on Saturday and throughout the entire year.

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