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Energy Educator Column

Energy Educator lightbulbConserving Energy: We're All In This Together

Recently I was talking to someone about a looming strike where he works. He and his colleagues were discouraged that when implementing cost cutting measures, it was only the “rank and file” workers (not management) who had to make changes.

Listening to his evaluation, I began to think about my experiences in South Colonie. Fortunately, when it comes to conserving energy, I believe everyone, in every job, is in this together. Many people I speak to are shocked to find out that our District Office has reduced its energy consumption more than any other building.

Likewise, I have been told over and over again from “experts” in the energy conservation field to not expect a savings from our bus garage, as these facilities rarely produce any savings. Our district has proven the experts wrong.

When looking at the success of our energy conservation program, the most important factor is that everyone is doing their part. This demonstrates to the taxpayers that we are frugal with their tax dollars at all levels. We are also good stewards to the environment because reduced energy consumption reduces the amount of carbon dioxide being emited into the atmosphere.

Not every district can say the same. In October 2008, State Controller, Thomas Dinapoli, issued a report on electrical consumption in New York State school districts. His office audited five school districts (including one of our neighboring districts) to see how conservatively they were spending taxpayer’s money.

Specifically, they audited schools to see if computers were being shut down when not being used. In general, the schools did not fare well in the audit. The report estimated that school districts in New York State could collectively save more than $11.3 million dollars per year if staff would shut down computers and related equipment such as printers.

I am proud to say that our district is already saving a portion of that money. Had our district been one of those audited I am certain we would have fared well as a result of the energy conservation ethic we have here. In fact, the last time I did an audit over a long weekend, fewer than 3 percent of the 1,500 computers were left on. The ease with which we have access to energy can make us forget how easy it is to save.

Somewhere in my education I remember learning that we used more muscles when we frown than when we smile. The underlying message is that it takes more effort to frown than to smile. I am sure you are wondering how smiling relates to saving energy. Let me explain.

Smiling isn’t only good for others — the smiler benefits, too. Regardless of our emotion, when we smile, we elevate our mood — and it’s contagious! Smiling people cause those around them to smile. The same is true for conserving energy. When others see us conserving energy, it reminds them to conserve as well.

So, the next time you see someone smile, think, what did I do to conserve energy today? Likewise, the next time you turn off an electrical consuming device —SMILE.