Lights Out at K-Mart and Sears For Earth Hour: Who Else?

Led by the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), the fifth annual Earth Hour 2010 takes place tomorrow, March 27, from 8:30pm to 9:30pm local time, around the world.  During this hour, at least 1 billion people will shut off their lights in showing their concern over climate change.  Since its inception in 2006, Earth Hour has grown–or rather, dimmed?–as many iconic structures from the Empire State Building to Egypt’s pyramids at Giza will flip the switch and go dark.  Earth Hour’s supporters expect even more cooperation this year, as corporations such as Wells Fargo and IKEA promise to shut off their lights at many of their locations.  One corporate leader in the effort to shut off all those lights on Saturday night is Sears Holdings Corporation, which runs Sears and K-Mart stores from its Chicago headquarters.

According to Michael Brown, Sears Holdings’ sustainability project manager, Sears and Kmart stores nationwide will participate in this initiative by turning off all non-essential lighting during Earth Hour, including every other television and most computer monitors.  The stores will remain open, with just enough light to make it safe for shoppers.  By shutting off lights at all of its stores, Sears Holdings anticipates saving 80,000 kilowatt hours, or enough energy to power almost eight American homes for a year.  Since 2006, Brown and his colleagues have worked with managers and employees throughout all levels of the company in reducing its energy consumption by 20%, saving about 1 billion kilowatt hours.  Brown stated that most of the energy reduction was through lighting retrofits, along with an emphasis on educating store managers and their associates on tactics for conserving energy.

“But it’s not just about concrete results and cost savings,” Brown told me during an interview yesterday, “it’s about showing how Sears can lead and be a symbol of the positive effects of reducing energy use, while engaging our shareholders, stakeholders, and associates to be more aware of our stewardship of the environment.”  Besides working with the WWF on Earth Hour, Sears approaches sustainability from other angles.  For example, Sears Holdings works with Metafore and its Environmental Paper Assessment Tool (EPAT) to increase sourcing of environmentally-preferred paper for its catalogs, retail circulars, direct mail and internal paper usage.  The company also showcases Energy Star-rated appliances in its showrooms, which led the EPA to name Sears Holdings as its 2010 ENERGY STAR retail Partner of the Year.

Earth Hour is a great way to make consumers aware of their electricity use and its effect on the earth.  I will be at an art gallery opening tomorrow night, and I am wondering how I can somehow fit Earth Hour into the schedule.  While it is great that more famous structures such as Rio’s Christ the Redeemer and Seattle’s Space Needle will dim its lights, the large chains like Sears Holdings’ consume more significant amounts of electricity.  But none of Sears Holdings’ competitors has announced participation in tomorrow’s mass dimming.  Ditto auto dealerships, notorious for leaving lights on all night, for the most part (though I did find one in Beirut that will!).  Some large office towers across the US have joined the WWF as partners, but overall, Earth Hour is impressive for the massive numbers of individuals who will turn off the lights; its corporate supporters, however, are few and far between.   Whether you believe in climate change, energy efficiency, or wish to reduce pollution, joining the masses tomorrow night is a simple way to show your concern for the earth.  And finally, wouldn’t it be nice to just be able to see the stars?

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is a business writer and strategic communications specialist. He has also been featured in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. When he has time, he shares his thoughts on his own site, Contact him at You can also reach out via Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). He is currently living and working in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.