South Sound schools, agencies pledge to power down for Earth Day

Think of it as a green out.

Several South Sound schools and organizations have vowed to switch off extra lights and unplug unneeded electronic equipment between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

The effort, called Dim Down for Earth Day, is being promoted by Providence Health & Services, Intercity Transit, Thurston County, The Evergreen State College and the Olympia School District.

It’s about raising awareness about ways to conserve energy, reduce carbon emissions, and save money, according to Keith Edgerton, who manages sustainability efforts for Providence.

“I really want people to become just more aware of the resources we use daily,” he said.

Intercity Transit staff members are being asked to turn off their computers and lights, and unplug items such as heaters and fans during their lunch time, according to marketing and communications coordinator Kris Fransen.

“We’re also encouraging people to walk, bike or ride the bus to lunch or meetings during that time,” she said.

Thurston County officials say turning off computers and lights isn’t possible because of safety and service needs. But county workers are being asked to unplug their personal space heaters for 24 hours.

Sustainability specialist Josh Cummings said he doesn’t know how many space heaters are in county works paces. However, the average space heater costs about $400 a year if it operates eight hours a day, he said. If only 10 percent of the county’s nearly 1,000-person staff uses space heaters, that’s about $40,000 in energy costs, he added.

Providence employees will be asked to power down computers, lights, printers and other electronic devices they aren’t using during their lunch time.

“We realize that in clinical areas you won’t see much difference because we don’t want to affect patient safety,” Edgerton said.

At Evergreen, faculty and staff members are being invited to turn off the lights in their work areas during mid-day, according to Scott Morgan, director of the Sustainability Program.

And Olympia School District officials have challenged all of their teachers and staff members to dim building lights and unplug unneeded electronics for an hour on Wednesday.

Buildings that demonstrate a measurable reduction in electricity usage for an hour will be entered into a drawing for prizes, according to a district Facebook post.