Grant to cut energy use teams college with community

The Dorr Foundation has awarded Saint Joseph's a $23,550 grant to help monitor energy use more closely on campus, and also partner with students in a nearby community to monitor, calculate and reduce energy use at their school and homes.

Campus sustainability coordinator Jeanne Gulnick will train five 7th-grade math and science teachers at Windham Middle School about how to install meters that measure energy use in classrooms and in their students' homes. The grant will also connect the math and science students at the middle school with Saint Joseph's mentors - student eco-reps and students enrolled in the Ecology and the Environmental Challenge course on campus. In all, roughly 225 middle school students and 270 Saint Joseph's students will be involved.

The grant will purchase meters and control devices for measuring electricity use by zone or building, which can more easily pinpoint potential problems. It will also produce action plans to reduce energy use and measure the impact of those actions. Ecology and the Environmental Challenge classes will each monitor one of four campus buildings, whereas 7th grade classes will monitor their school by zone. Dr. Gulnick, coordinator of the project, says that gathering and analyzing data, as well as problem solving, improve when electrical use is metered by zone or building. Studying energy use lends itself naturally to science and math curricula, she says, because students compare data, calculate and convert units of energy use, and learn how electricity is produced and transported.

The project aims to cut the amount of energy used at both institutions by changing behaviors and practices. The long-term goal is to have students learn positive behaviors and civic responsibility that they'll continue lifelong. "We feel that when the middle schoolers learn how much energy their classroom uses or when our mentors teach them how to figure the amount of electricity their hot water heater uses, it will really make a difference," says Gulnick.