Hammond turns off lights

Power down saves $40 for one day as school's contribution towards fighting climate change

Hammond students (from left): Joshua Kahn

Hammond students (from left): Joshua Kahn

A group of Hammond elementary Grade 7 students showed the school district how it can achieve dramatic energy savings.

Alexandra Tudose, the energy manager for School District 42, recently received an unusual request –  an inquiry from Hammond student Meghan Toolsie, asking how much energy the school uses in a day.

“I mostly receive correspondence from adults,” said Tudose. “But this little girl’s email to me was one of the most professional I’d ever read.”

Meghan explained that she and three other students had an idea for an inquiry project for her school. They would conduct a power-down day at Hammond elementary, and see how much savings could be achieved by simply turning off lights and other electrical appliances.

All she needed from the district office was the consumption data, to be used for the ‘before’ snapshot, and the consumption data for the ‘after’ snapshot, once their project was complete. Tudose gave here the before data, and waited for the results of the inquiry project.

Tudose, whose title is manager of energy and environmental sustainability in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district, was shocked to see 67 per cent energy savings. The school’s usage dropped from 600 to 200 kilowatts. The savings is approximately $40 for the day.

“I’ve never heard of 67 per cent being done for a personal initiative,” she said.

She contacted Meghan to find out how they had accomplished this, since it was a result Tudose herself couldn’t imagine achieving.

They simply had all students and teachers turn off lights if it was safe, even during classes, as long as there was enough light to work by. It was a polite request, and not a mandate, but the school community took the project on.

Tudose said she saw results from a similar campaign at Maple Ridge Firehall No. 1, where the savings were 24 per cent.

“It’s incredible how much people can do with their habits, their actions,” she said. “It’s amazing one student was able to galvanize the whole school.”

Tudose said the warm weather also had an impact on the results at Hammond, but the difference between a warm day and a cold one is only about 10-15 per cent more electricity usage.

Hammond principal Kevin Bodman said the power down day was not a disruption.

“It was okay – there’s lots of natural lighting,” he said, noting the building was constructed in 2000, and shares its design plan with Edith McDermott and Alexander Robinson Elementary Schools.

Tudose says there is a lesson that schools could all be designed to take advantage of natural lighting, to save energy.

Meaghan wants to do more – she wants to do power down day every Friday.