Whether you celebrate Easter or Passover this coming long weekend (may I hear a round of applause for a long weekend!), hopefully you spent last weekend in the dark. It was Earth Hour last Saturday, a time to shut the lights and think a bit about planet, have a really good chat by candlelight, or dance maniacally under the light of the moon (which, after viewing a friend’s wedding video, turns out to be exactly how I dance).

Earth Hour can be a great conversation starter. Most people know that turning off a light for an hour will not save the planet, but symbolic gestures may turn into permanent habits, and that’s where the real magic happens.

At UHN, we asked people to power down for the planet and make Earth Hour their favorite turn off. We had a little something at every location. Toronto General Hospital lowered lots of lights: the DeGasperis Conservatory, the Foundation banner, RFE canopy, and RFE 5th floor. Princess Margaret Hospital turned off exterior banner lights, and (as always) lowered main lighting to emergency levels. Toronto Western lowered lights in the East Wing, Atrium, and West Wing. And this year, Toronto Rehab Institute began participating by asking staff on shift to find an empty room and turn off the lights. We echoed that message at all sites, but made sure that no one tried to perform surgery by candlelight. 

A friend posted a picture of the sign in front of his child’s school. It Said “Pizza Day!” and then below “Earth Hour!”. He noted with amusement that the earth gets an hour when pizza gets a whole day. That’s some important pizza!

Luckily, come April 22, the planet will get its due as we celebrate the 43rd annual Earth Day. Why so many environmentally friendly holidays so close together? Do environmentalists not have calendars? Or is it that Spring just resonates so deeply with us green types when we see a bud on a tree, a flower poking through the snow, and hear the twinkly chirping of birds, we need to party for the planet? Maybe Earth Hour is a nice warm-up for Earth Day, like running a 10 K to train for a marathon. Easter and Passover also share the celebration of Spring with symbols of renewal sprouting in every Easter Basket and Seder Plate.

So as we gear up for quality family time this weekend, some of us will tell the story of Moses or Jesus (or in my family, the hybrid holiday of Eastover…a time when Moses went up Mount Sinai and brought down ten chocolate bunnies). All of the stories boil down to a basic message…the triumph of life over death, freedom over slavery, and hope over despair. Sounds like the ultimate message in sustainability to me.

Happy Spring Holidays Everyone!