Ms. Madison Hakey, Charlotte News Correspondant
Here in Vermont, students care a lot about the environment and how their actions correspond with climate change. Just ask the students in the EnACT club at CVU. These students have created projects that have spread statewide. “We were one of the pilot schools in this energy challenge and now schools across the state are using the same words, same language,” Katie Antos-Ketcham, the EnACT advisor states. EnACT stands for Environmental Action Club. It is a club where students encourage, educate, and act on making CVU an environmentally friendly place. Antos-Ketcham emphasizes the word action because, “while it is important to learn about the environment, it is also really important to do something,” and EnACT certainly has. CVU has come a long way through past and present EnACT initiatives.
In the past, EnACT has worked a lot with taking action to decrease CVU’s impact on the environment, and they have succeeded in doing this multiple ways. For one, they have lowered CVU’s energy intake. “2011 through 2013, EnACT sponsored the Whole School Energy Challenge which was a collaboration with a group called Efficiency Vermont and a group called VEEP, Vermont Energy Education Program, to help schools lower their electricity consumption,” Antos-Ketcham states. “We collected data in a baseline year of what our consumption was and then we were able to, in the next two years, create initiatives to try to lower how much electricity we use.” EnACT was able to lower CVU’s electric consumption in a few ways, the first being a lighting retrofit done by Green Mountain Power. Antos-Ketcham says that Efficiency Vermont estimated that the lighting retrofit will save approximately 181,000 kilowatt hours per year. She continues with a comparison, “At my house, we conserved a lot, and we use three or four hundred a month.” In addition to the lighting retrofit, Kurt Proulx, CVU’s Director of Maintenance, got on board with software that helped to manage the peak in electricity that occurred every day around lunch. IT was also excited to help. EnACT and IT worked together to figure out ways to save energy that desktops use, whether it is an automatic shutdown or sleep mode transition after a few minutes. Finally, EnACT did their part by introducing students to “Hibernation Vacation,” a project where students and faculty were encouraged to unplug anything that could be unplugged around the school during vacation. EnACT even threw an “Unplugging Party” where the club members ran around the school unplugging the desktops in computer labs.
In addition to this huge success, EnACT has been busy with other, smaller projects that focus on behavior around the school. One of the biggest changes that was made in the past few years was the installation of sorting stations in the cafeteria. Now students know how to recycle and compost. Another big change also took place in the cafeteria. Leo LaForce, CVU’s Food Service Director, switched over from plasticware to silverware after EnACT showed their concern about the 2,000 plasticware being used each week. To ensure that no plasticware needed to be thrown away, EnACT collected silverware for advisories. “We did a silverware fundraiser at Election Day last November and we gathered a lot of donated silverware, and then we donated them to advisors. So now when my advisory eats cake, I don’t have to throw out silverware,” Antos-Ketcham recalls.
Currently, EnACT is busy with educating students on what they can do to help the club succeed. “A lot of our action is school based to think about how we can reduce CVU’s overall climate impact. In the present, what we are working on is a lot of education,” Antos-Ketcham states. “We just need to keep up with the changes so people know,” and it isn’t just about educating the students. It’s about teaching the students and faculty skills that they can pass on to others. “There are some really important skills that I know I want my kids to know, like how to save seeds, how to grow food, how to be a little more resilient and not rely on energy for everything, and I feel like often times we forget to address that within the context of daily life. As we think about education, there’s always more we can do.” With this mindset, Antos-Ketcham encourages students to actively help others to understand how their actions can help prevent climate change because, “even a few students can make a huge difference.”
This piece was first published in the Charlotte News. The CVC greatly appreciates this partnership. –ed.