VINALHAVEN — It’s fitting that the generation most likely to be hit hard by climate change and high energy costs be immersed in learning solutions.
Energy for ME, an education program run by the Island Institute, helped coastal and island students find more than $88,000 in electricity savings and prevent more than 600,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions in a school-year-long endeavor.
Students in ten participating schools kept track of their school’s electricity use and found ways to reduce consumption.
At the annual Energy Fair in Belfast on May 10, Vinalhaven students were named the winners in the contest with their 45 percent reduction in electricity use that resulted in $2,500 in utility bill savings.
The lessons seem to have been absorbed by students at a very practical, hands-on level.
“Making small changes, saving power a little bit at a time, makes a bigger difference than you would think,” Jensen Bruns, a ninth-grader at the Vinalhaven School said.
Another ninth-grader, Hannah Jo Moody, identified the culprits.
“I learned a lot about appliances and how much energy they use and which use the most energy,” she said. “Hairdryers, toasters, those that use heat use more energy.”
Others talked about changing habits at home.
Trevor Farrelly, a ninth-grader, said he used to keep his laptop plugged in all the time but now shuts it off and unplugs it when it’s charged.
Bruns echoed that observation: “I unplug and turn off things more often: lights, iPod charger, cell phone charger, random stuff around the house.”
Moody added, “I don’t usually have my laptop plugged in all night anymore, and I don’t usually have my alarm clock plugged in.”
Farrelly was surprised at how much electricity indicator lights on appliances use.
“Even when a TV is off, or something as simple as a coffee maker with a clock on it, it’s still using a lot of energy,” he said.
In the school, Farrelly said, “We turned the hall light timers down. They were on 20 minutes, we turned them down to 5-10 minutes. We asked classroom teachers to keep lights closest to windows off, and we put timers on the laptop racks in the middle school.”
Islesboro Central School students created energy-related public service announcements and conducted home energy walk-throughs in 20 island homes.
Sam Lyons, a student at Jonesport-Beals High School, calculated what it would take to fuel the school’s busses on biodiesel.
Students at Washington Academy in East Machias completed a lighting survey of their alumni building and identified 371 bulbs that could be removed to save energy.
Students in Southwest Harbor’s Pemetic Elementary School conducted lighting audits, examined heating systems and looked for air leaks.
Camden Hills Regional High School students worked to reduce electricity use so that the school’s renewable energy systems can provide more power.
North Haven Community School students assessed heating fuel costs and alternative fuels. Student Ethan Mao researched heating systems and fuels to determine which heating options work best on the island, and then created an informational brochure.
Students at East Machias’ Elm Street School surveyed parents about their support for energy efficiency work, conducted a lighting audit of the old gymnasium, presented their findings to the school board with a recommendation that they switch to more efficient fluorescent lights and the board approved the retrofit, which was completed this year.
Students in the science class at Searsport District Middle School investigated energy loss in the gym, classrooms and kitchen using tools such as the kill-a-watt meter, thermal leak detector and light meter.
Participating schools shared $6,500 in “eBucks” with which they are funding efficiency projects such as power strips with timers for laptop charging stations, LED outdoor lights, task lighting and exit sign retrofits.
For more information about Energy for ME, contact Brooks Winner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 594-9209 x148.