Reducing energy consumption at South

SungAh Kim, Guest Writer

Hundreds of students and staff pass through the front entrance of South every morning to commence their day. While entering this large building, the students are greeted with the blinding fluorescent lighting of their classrooms. The hallways are abuzz — people are dashing into classrooms, socializing in the libraries, typing away at the computer labs, and frantically scurrying to the bathrooms, all of which consume vast amounts of electricity and energy.

The amount of energy required to sustain South is unprecedentedly high. The rooms and hallways all require lighting, cooling, heating, and electricity. The school is open from as early as 5:30am to as late as 10:30pm, depending on the day and which school activities take place. Is there any way to reduce the amount of energy consumed at school?

Several projects have taken place at South to raise awareness about the school’s energy consumption. The majority of the projects are led by the school’s environmental club and AP environmental class, both sponsored by Amanda Figolah.

In 2014, Project PaveGen, a project created by a team of AP Environmental Students, was launched and nationally recognized. The students wrote several grants to purchase renewable energy tiles called PaveGen and install them at school. The goal of this project was to mainly educate the Monroe County youth on renewable energy sources like PaveGen. Classes from different schools visit South to be educated by our students. The lesson plans are all curated and taught by the students, out of pure passion for the environment.

Another incredible project of Mrs. Figolah’s AP class was the Lights Out campaign. The goal of the campaign was to reduce the overall light energy usage at all of the schools across MCCSC. The project turned out to be an incredible success! Classrooms from multiple MCCSC schools participated, and the campaign raised awareness district-wide.

A new project will be launching this year called Project Green Bathrooms, founded by two students at South. SungAh Kim, a sophomore at the time, and Tamar Moss, a junior, met over the summer to talk about the South’s energy usage, especially in the restrooms. This is where the idea for Project Green Bathrooms was born. One incredibly resource-consuming place at South is the restroom. The restrooms are used by the entire school population from staff to students. Water is used for the toilets, urinals, and sinks. Paper towels are used to dry hands. Gas and electric energy are used to heat the water. The lights are constantly on in the restrooms, and there is almost always a person using the facilities. This would not only be a great place to renovate and save energy/resources, but also a great platform to educate the people attending South.

Moss and Kim found the most popular bathrooms at South and decided to raise funding to renovate them to create an eco-friendly space and educational platform. The two contacted individuals and wrote several grants to raise funding and support for their project. Eventually, SungAh and Tamar received their first grant, as well as the contact and support of the MCCSC Director of Building Operations, Chris Ciolli.

As soon as the project was proposed, Mr. Ciolli was completely on board and the planning and purchasing of materials took off. This year, in October of 2016, Project Green Bathrooms Pt. 1 will be finished and open to the school.

Although our school uses an incredible amount of energy annually, the students and staff of South and MCCSC have cooperated to create multiple projects and initiatives to raise awareness for energy usage and lower the amount of energy being spent. Whether it is in the classrooms or in the bathrooms, students and staff are taking broad steps to help South become a more sustainable high school.