Lights Out: "turn your electricity off" event photos

Looks like the Lights Out SF event last night was a big success. Here are some photos. Above, the Golden Gate Bridge, before and then during the event, which encouraged people (and municipalities) to turn off their lights for an hour as an exercise in power consumption awareness.

Organizer/spokeshottie Nathan Tyler is a former Google PR rep, and Google "turned out the lights" for Bay Area users for an hour. Incidentally, when Nate suggests people "party in the dark" as an eco-lifestyle action -- have dinner parties with no lights on, for example -- coming from him, it doesn't sound like a bad idea.

Californiah govahnatah Arnold Schwarzeneggah said the event was "an illuminating example to all Californians." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed, and Craigslist pitched in. Flickr snaps here.

The group also encourages people to swap at least one bulb in their home or office to compact fluorescent bulbs, which can help reduce your overall electricity use.


  1. It looks like the bridge was the ONLY light turned off in the photo you used. Oh, I see two buildings in the background participated. Still, not much difference.

  2. Well, I think the point is that they weren’t just any ole buildings, they were, um, the Transamerica Pyramid, and other landmarks. I don’t think the organizers expected to shut off ALL lights in SF, it was more of an awareness-raising exercise, and in that respect it sounded like they did a great job.

  3. why do they suggest “at least one bulb”? Why not suggest as many as possible. Costco has these bulbs for next to nothing now. I got an 8 pack for 10.99, and then there was a LIPA (Long Island Power Authority) instant rebate of 8 dollars. So the 8 rang up at 2.99. I changed most of the bulbs in my house to CFLs, and the light output is bright and white, not at all like the harsh fluorescent I am used to.

  4. @Suburbancowboy, check out their website — they weren’t capping it at one bulb, just telling folks who may not have a lot of motivation “hey, how hard it it to just start with one little lightbulb?,” hoping they’ll move on from there. One bulb at a time.

  5. I had forgotten about Lights Out, but there were high winds here in the valley and my power went out for almost two hours!!!

  6. I applaud the effort Google went to to spread awareness for the event, but people with LCD monitors end up using more energy than before when they use that or similar blacked-out search pages.

  7. I turned all of my lights ON last night, and kept them on an extra hour. The problem isn’t power consumption, but rather municipalities that don’t know how to run a city, build infrastructure, and stand up to environmental hysteria. California should have been 100% nuclear by the year 2007. I’m not going to enable our politicians to continue to ignore the issue.

  8. They did this in Iceland last year, but the government participated too and turned off the streetlights for half an hour. It was astounding to realize how artificially bright our concept of night is.

  9. I’m sure it’s already been asked, but:

    Doesn’t it consume more power to turn a bunch of lights off all at once and then turn them back on an hour later, than to just leave them on?

  10. This is ludicrous. AC & heating take orders of magnitude more energy than lighting.

    Do you think a “turn off your AC” campaign in Las Vegas could handle the PR hit of the elderly that die because of it?

    There are real ways to solve energy problems. One of the first steps is to avoid stunts that don’t actually do anything to help the environment. If you really care, you shouldn’t try to sell warm fuzzies.

  11. W. James Au: You assume this was something more than a publicity stunt. Now the liberals can say that they sat in the dark for an hour, and they obviously care more about the environment than you do.

    Besided, who wants CF bulbs? They producer poorer quality light, cost a decent bit more and contain more lead than regular bulbs? Between this and things like Sheryl Crow’s “joke” about using one sheet of toilet paper, why are they trying to radically alter our life style? I don’t want to read by candlelight and wipe with a pine cone in the United States, especially not in the year 2007.

  12. Meh!

    Compact Fluorescents are going to turn into an environmental nightmare once all you hippies who bought GE’s propoganda start throwing them away.

    Don’t believe the hype!

    Just because the manufacturers want to unload the 10 million containers of them they made in China last year and are selling them to you as eco friendly doesn’t mean it’s true.
    etc. etc. google it. Fluorescents suck.

    LED is the way. Longest life span, low power draw, minimum environmental impact, nice color temperature.

  13. gosh do people love to get polarized about the environment or what?

    this IS a bit fluffy of a stunt, and doesn’t address a lot of root issues, but, it MIGHT get people who don’t buy the LED lights and the F.S.C.-certified wood and the local, organic produce and all the other REALLY better alternatives to use less power…

    again, though, there ARE much more important things that can be done.

    on an individual level, vegetarianism is a great help to the environment. some concerns with meat production are the large amounts of fossil fuel and water resources consumed by intensive animal farming and the consequent emissions of harmful gases and chemicals. animal agriculture has been pointed out as one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases — responsible for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalents. by comparison, all transportation emits 13.5% of the CO2. animal farming produces 65% of human-related nitrous oxide (which has 296 times the global warming potential of CO2) and 37% of all human-induced methane (which is 23 times as warming as CO2). it is also accused of generating 64% of the ammonia, which contributes to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems. when tracking food animal production from the feed trough to consumption, the inefficiencies of meat, milk and egg production range from 4:1 energy input to protein output ratio up to 54:1. it takes half of the u.s’s water supply to raise animals for food, to the tune of 2,500 gallons for 1 pound of beef. a lot of the rain-forest gets clear-cut to feed livestock and as we all (should) know, the less plants, the less we can pump CO2 out there. the habitat for wildlife provided by large industrial monoculture farms is very poor, and modern industrial agriculture has been considered a threat to biodiversity compared with farming practices such as organic farming, permaculture, arable, pastoral, and rainfed agriculture. on a human rights note, the U.S. could feed 800 million people with grain that livestock eat.

    other personal things you can do involve not moving somewhere you have to drive all the time, not buying a lot of packaged, complex products, or technology or even things you have to recycle. utilize the bulk section of your local health food store. you can also plant trees or grow your own food. really the more self-sufficient you are, the less you have to harm. (ie: if you want to eat meat, it’s better to hunt some over-populated deer or raise your own chickens…)

    on a a societal level, not having a bunch of laws that coddle polluters would be a great step… we could sign the kyoto protocol like every other western nation. i’m into taxing people the cost of reparing the harm of the production of the products you buy. so if you buy a computer, you should have to pay the enviromental costs of the coltan mining, emissions and waste chemicals from the factory and the health costs for the workers (computer manufacturing is one of the most highly carcinogenic fields.) on the flipside, if there must be laws, you could have laws that encourage rational resource use. one of the first things reagan did when he took office was to remove the tax benefits of installing solar panels, which many more homes would have by now. i know solar isn’t a flawless plan, but it helps. i’m not as cozy with nuclear power as kevitivity is, considering our government’s irrational handling of other dangerous responsibilities. luckily, there are certainly a wealth of alternative energy production methods out there that have largely been stopped from being implemented for monopolistic reasons. i’ve been pretty annoyed that the fact you can get FOUR times as much ethanol from an acre of hemp as you can from an acre of corn hasn’t come up in the brouhaha about ethanol… it’s got a few thousand other uses too (like making plastic, paper, beams, cloth and rope. henry ford built a hemp plastic car fueled on hemp ethanol over 50 years ago…) i also like in concept the generators that harness the ocean’s waves, too, but i’m not sure how practical they are…. but really, we just need to ask nikola tesla how we can get energy from space… oh, he’s dead.

    just HONESTLY trying to help is the biggest thing.

  14. how about “turn the internet off for a year?” when is that going to happen? that would be great

  15. Just to address the anti-CFL rant above – on a per hour of light provided basis, CFLs are far chaper and contain far less metals than incandescents. The old CFLs did have a funny light, took a while to come on, and cost a lot, but those are no longer issues. There’s no difference between CFL and a cool white incandescent, except that the CFL is more full spectrum. They also come on instantly, even in the cold, and are much less expensive when you consider that you don’t have to change them for years. It’s worth it to me just to avoid having to change that annoying porch light that used to burn out every other month.

  16. I bought the CF hype, and the bulbs, and you know what?

    They suck.

    A lot.

    I see no difference in our power bill, and we have all CFs now, so we get to sit in darkness for 5 minutes after flipping the switch while they warm up.

    And even the “warm” ones have horrid sharp shadows and make food look unappetizing.

    LEDs… I don’t even know where you would buy such a thing, and white LEDs are way too cool (color). Maybe mix them with some ambers? I don’t know.


  17. For some reason my porch CFLs burn out every 4 months, I can’t figure it out (I do use them on the porch, because I leave them on a lot for security, and I dont have to sit under them, which gives me an instant headache) so the long life thing hasn’t been working out for me

    LEDs can be manufactured to any visible and some non-visible wavelengths so you can get any color temperature you want. Most flashlights go for the high end of the blue/white spectrum, so maybe that’s why you hate them, but they can be any color.

  18. The point about vegetarianism and global energy use (as well as global warming) is a valid one. Farming is by far both the largest man made source of CO2 (of course, no where near on par with the ocean) as well as a massive energy hog. That said, there is no way in HELL I’m giving up meat.

  19. LED produces less light per watt and has a horrible color temperature. (Strong blue push, even worse than “cool white” fluorescent.) The cheap LED’s also have a shorter life span than a good compact fluorescent. (10,000 hour fluorescents aren’t hard to find.)

    A white LED is actually an IR LED with a phosphor, and the phosphor goes bad over time. Typically 10,000 hours, but cheap ones usually go bad much, much faster.

  20. Now if only we can get my neighbors by the lake to turn off the lights that do nothing more than illuminate the exteriors of their $500K hoses. ~ EVil Jim

  21. I see no difference in our power bill, and we have all CFs now, so we get to sit in darkness for 5 minutes after flipping the switch while they warm up.

    You got the wrong ones, I’m afraid.

  22. My gosh, I don’t think I’ve seen a single completely accurate statement on white LED’s yet.

    There are different ways to make a white LED. But the latest involve using a *blue* or near-UV (not IR!) LED to stimulate a phosphor or phosphor-like compound; or by using a combination of blue and yellow to produce something close to white.

    And “color temperature” is only part of the story. A non-incandescent source can look similar to an incandescent source of a particular color temperature but something called the “Color Rendering Index” is a crucial spec for LED’s, fluorescents, other gas-discharge lights, or anything with a spiky spectrum. The CRI describes how well a given light source can reproduce colors. An artificial light source (incandescent is the reference and considered “natural”) with a higher CRI will do a better job of making your food, scrapbooking, whatever, look natural. But incandescent will always be best. And, as I read about CRI on wikipedia, I discovered the the CRI is only based on 8 color samples, which hardly spans the full complement of colors in the world. So perhaps it’s possible to design an artificial light source with an artificially high CRI — i.e. close to 100 but some real-world colors still look funky. (Though I honestly haven’t done my homework to assess whether they’re sufficiently representative or not.)

  23. @ Jolon

    The article you linked states “Breaking one mercury light bulb in your home can contaminate your home to such a degree that hazardous materials experts are needed to remove the mercury

    That article instantly loses any credibility it may have had. Lucky for me they had that passage bolded and I could promptly skip reading the whole thing. Do your homework.

    I’ve changed nearly all the bulbs I could to CFL’s (some won’t fit in certain sockets with coverings) and I love them. I don’t have to replace them often. As for savings, I haven’t noticed anything on the electric bill because, well, I live in a small-ish apartment and most of my electricity is for my computer.

  24. @Joe

    I think that’s my electrical issue as well. How did we get to the point where a good power supply has to be 500W??? My machine ran just great on 350W, but when I had to replace it, only scary cheapo PSUs were 350W, so up I went to 500W.

    As for the “you didn’t get the right ones” comments, I have gotten that everywhere on the net I’ve posted my experience, and I’m sorry, but I have purchased every brand available in Japan. They are all like that. The National (aka Panasonic) ones I’m using now are by far the best, but they are still dark for a good 3-5 minutes, depending on the temperature, and while the color temperature is a great improvement over the Toshibas, it’s still not as nice as incandescent.

    The thing people might not be taking into account, with the warm-up time complaint, however, is that Japanese houses aren’t heated. I don’t recall getting annoyed with the lights over the summer, but as it cools off, it’s annoying me again. That probably has a lot to do with it.

  25. because i am an american, my comfort and convenience is of the utmost importance — thus, if an alternative is even slightly less perfect than what i am used to, i am allowed — nay, obligated — to throw it out. more so, i am encouraged to crawl into my eight-seat 10mpg SUV to drive the five blocks to the recycle center to do it. right?

    come on, guys. “five minutes of darkness”? that’s malarkey. my house is 95% CFL and honestly it is not such a big deal. a couple minutes of slightly dimmed light is not something to moan about.

  26. I’ll start using CF bulbs when they start making the kind that have 3 different wattages. I have 3-way torchieres and I have yet to see CF bulbs that can go in them.

    Actually, you know what? I probably won’t use them even then, because I hate the sharp lighting flourescents provide. And they make a high-pitched buzzng noise that drives me bugfuck.

    However, I don’t own a car and I’m not having children–not reproducing is the single biggest thing you can do to save the environment, not going vegan–so I still feel pretty smug about my environmental footprint.

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