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Students spread the word about home-energy efficiency
November 14, 2011Tweet
Binghamton University students are reaching out to help the campus community realize the value of home-energy efficiency.
Students in Adam Flint’s Sustainability and Social Movements course are promoting free and reduced-cost home-energy assessments during 10-minute presentations to groups of faculty and staff members. Students have already made presentations to the Professional Employees Council and Physical Facilities.
“The goal for us is to reach out as broadly as possible across the campus in this academic year so everyone is aware even if they have not seen the program,” said Flint, an adjunct lecturer in environmental studies and the city of Binghamton’s Energy Leadership Program coordinator.
The Energy Leadership Program, which is based at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County, aims at getting the region’s leaders to recognize energy efficiency as a top priority. Making the upgrades could reduce some homeowner energy bills by 20-60 percent.
“We decided to target Binghamton University as an energy-leader institution that could have the potential to move the discussion in this county so that getting energy improvements to one’s home is as common as buying a new car,” Flint said.
“While there are technological and scientific challenges to becoming sustainable, our biggest challenges are human behavior and organization,” he added. “Energy efficiency is a classic. There is no technological breakthrough needed. We know how to do this. Part of it is an educational challenge, but part of it is a priority challenge.”
Students are helping to meet those challenges through their campus presentations. Flint’s class has 30 students working in teams of two to prepare PowerPoint presentations that make the public aware of the need for home-energy assessments and the financial incentives available through the Green Jobs Green New York program. Everyone in the class is required to make a presentation. Seniors Valerie Virgona and Max Beasley made the presentation to the PEC.
“We start by explaining the benefits of retrofitting and making your home more efficient and then we go into challenges such as why it’s not a wide-spread activity at the moment,” Virgona said. “Then we go into how Green Jobs Green New York addresses these problems and what improvements they are making.”
“The (presentation) addresses two main questions: ‘Why do we want to do this?’ and ‘Why is this easy to do?’” Beasley said. “We go through all of the good things associated with retrofitting and the first step of the process: an energy audit. … It’s less about the specific ways of weatherizing your home. We talk about the benefits of the energy audit and how cost-effective it is regardless of your situation.”
All of the students have helped modify the PowerPoint presentation during the semester, Flint said. Student teams then rehearse presentations in the class and a couple of times in Flint’s office in Science 1.
“Everyone who has gone out in the field has done the presentation in my presence at least three times and in the presence of the class at least once,” Flint said.
Students also hand out informational flyers, a list of energy-efficiency contractors in Broome County and an audit application (More information can also be found at www.upgradeupstate.org). A Q&A period follows the presentation, with the majority of questions being about financing, Flint said. Energy audits are now free to those with a household income of less than $120,000; homeowners making $120,000-$240,000 receive a reduced-cost audit.
The students’ work will continue throughout the academic year. A presentation is scheduled this week for the Campus Pre-school. A workshop is also scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 21, in UU-124. The spring could see smaller, informal presentations at events such as ice cream socials, Flint said. And the class is still hoping to reach out to faculty and others by attending meetings. Those interested in hearing a presentation can contact Flint at email@example.com or 607-761-8337.
“People can have us come to their already-scheduled meetings or they can schedule us for a separate event,” Flint said. “We can accommodate them: The presentation is short and we are self-contained.”
The class and the presentation experience have been valuable, Virgona and Beasley said.
“Even as an environmental studies student, I didn’t know how important this is and how much energy could be cut down,” Virgona said. “I think it’s an important cause. This issue needs to be out in the community.”
“There’s no financial incentive to what we’re doing,” Beasley said. “Our goal is to try to save energy and get us away from oil and other dirty forms of combustion and toward something more sustainable and renewable. Doing the presentation gives you a better sense of what it takes in a practical sense to do what I would consider to be a small first step. This needs to become more familiar so everyone can do it.”