Students and their teachers are helping to take more than 69 vehicles off the road in Nelson through an energy efficiency challenge. And they’re aiming to do even more next year.
Almost 350 students from seven schools in Nelson took the Cool It! climate leadership training with the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association earlier this year, and achieved some of the top energy savings in the province. Nelson Hydro sponsored the Cool It! challenge through its EcoSave energy retrofits program.
Cool It! brings environmental educators into classrooms to engage students in a fun, thought-provoking and empowering program on climate change and energy conservation. The four-week challenge showed students how energy saving actions at home can also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The program was developed in 2007 by the B.C. Sustainable Energy Association and has been presented to about 2,700 classes since that time. It has reached approximately 70,000 students and their families, encouraging them to reduce their environmental impacts.
The students and their families commitment to changing habits and taking actions such as replacing old light bulbs with new LED bulbs, taking shorter showers, washing laundry in cold water and reducing car trips saved a projected 362 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2e).
“I loved how many tonnes of carbon they will save if they keep up their actions for a year, and how many classrooms participate,” says Carmen Proctor, EcoSave program manager.
“It was also valuable to incorporate the local context, such as students visiting the Nelson Hydro power plant and solar garden. They talked about what can be done locally, such as getting an energy evaluation with EcoSave.”
Fifteen classrooms with students in Grades 4 to 8 participated in the workshops this year. They included a mix of discussion, animated videos and quizzes, skit activities and games. The kids did some brainstorming on ways to reduce their own impact and then they took the Climate Leadership Challenge contest home to work with their families to improve household energy efficiency.
“Over the four weeks, students and their families work towards realistic and achievable goals. How many loads of laundry can they hang out to dry instead of using a dryer? It’s about being aware of what uses energy and where they can reduce it,” Proctor says.
A bonus to this program being offered here is that the students and their teachers were able to sign up for tours of the Nelson Hydro power plant and community solar garden. These tours teach that over half of Nelson’s electricity is coming from local generation, and involves a history lesson that goes back to the late 1800s.
“I’m so impressed,” says Proctor. “Our local students completed more actions on average than in other communities: 20 energy saving actions compared to the average of 16. Those are 20 fairly easy things any family can do to save energy. Their energy reduction of more than one tonne of CO2e per student over the course of the year was higher than the average as well.”
Waldorf School’s Grade 5 class had the highest total percentage of contest points possible based on the class size. They were able to eliminate an estimated 23 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
“We hope to see more participation and greater energy savings in 2020, when we offer the program again,” adds Proctor. “We will be adding new bonus points within the challenge, there will be handheld infrared cameras available for sign out at the Nelson Public Library, if a family signs one out they can identify heat loss concerns and then learn what they can do about it, this will also add points to their overall challenge.”
The Cool It! workshops help teachers and students explore climate change actions and improve energy efficiency, and this aligns with the City of Nelson’s climate action goals.
Cool It! highlights:
• 345 students in 15 classes at seven schools in the Nelson Hydro service area participated.
• The students took 6,904 actions over the four weeks.
• The average reduction in CO2e per student was more than one tonne.
• The total reduction in CO2e was more than 362 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
• That’s the equivalent of taking 69 passenger vehicles off the road.