Pupils shine a light on energy use

FERRISBURGH — Students at Ferrsiburgh Central School are striving to reduce their town’s carbon footprint, and they just took two giant steps toward their goal.
The students first sold a total of 593 compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, to beat out six other primary and secondary schools from across the state to win the Efficiency Vermont CFL Challenge. And, since Ferrisburgh sold more CFLs per pupil than the other participating schools, the school last week was awarded $14,500 by utility Green Mountain Power and Efficiency Vermont to fund a school solar array, the size of which has yet to be determined.
“Ferrisburgh is very excited to have done this,” FCS Principal JoAnn Taft-Blakely said at a Thursday press conference, singling out one student who went above and beyond in selling CFLs.
“We couldn’t have done this without Angus,” she said.
Energy-minded fifth-grader Angus Schwaneflugel sold 118 — or 20 percent — of Ferrisburgh’s CFLs.
According to Efficiency Vermont, CFLs use up to 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.
From the get-go, Schwaneflugel challenged himself to sell at least 100 CFLs. But when he passed that mark, he kept on selling, even to family members up in Canada.
Schwaneflugel said his primary motivation was winning the solar panel array for his school. Every time he sold CFLs, he told his potential customer about the array.
“I just told them why we want these solar panels and why we need these solar panels to (improve) our energy (cost) savings,” said Schwaneflugel.
But the school didn’t just win a new array to create solar power, the competition helped the school raise about $300, which will go to maintaining Ferrisburgh’s outdoor classroom. All of this represents an energy-conscious trend at FCS over the past three years.
In 2009, the school implemented a major $1.5 million upgrade — installing new heating, ventilation and electrical systems; putting on a more-durable roof; and revamping the insulation; among other improvements.
So what’s the end result?
“Three years ago our oil bill was $55,000,” said Taft-Blakely. “Last year it was $20,000,” and that’s with the rising cost of oil.
FCS has also been a green energy leader. In May of 2010, the school’s own wind turbine was up and spinning. In its first year, it generated about 8,300 kWh of electricity, which is close to the amount of energy an average Vermont home uses in a year. The school’s website also features a wind turbine report, and the turbine has been incorporated into the curriculum.
Earlier this school year, students, teachers and volunteers built a greenhouse to extend the school garden’s growing season, and they also built a compost shack to quarantine the school’s compostable refuse. Now, 100 percent of the school’s food waste is turned into fertilizer for the school garden on site.
Schwaneflugel is proud of his school’s environmental initiatives. He’s happy to see his school combat what he views as one of the world’s most pressing problems.
“Global warming … I mean, look around, it’s so warm in the middle of winter,” he said.
Schwaneflugel’s fifth-grade classmate Ashley Cray is also concerned about climate change. But she hopes Ferrisburgh’s upcoming solar panels can jumpstart a trend across the state.
“It’s really great for our small school to get solar panels,” she said. “Maybe that’ll help other schools get them, too.”
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].
Vermont’s Top CFL numbers
•  Schools participating in the Efficiency Vermont CFL School Challenge sold a combined 2,665 CFL bulbs.
•  Vermont is the only state in the union that averages more than five CFLs per household with 6.1, according to a 2008 study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
•  ACEEE identified a trend that increased CFL use is directly correlated to higher electricity prices, but Vermont and Delaware buck the trend. Even though 10 states have higher electricity rates than Vermont, it still has the highest CFL use per household in the country. 

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