not by year, but by day

21/05/2012 § 1 Comment

Not by year, but by day.

a one-world article concerning Canadian Academy’s current electricity consumption.

The problem: overusing energy. The solution: common sense. In this era, we find millions of communities and schools facing the same problem involving the environment and the extensive use of energy in the form of electricity. Our own school, Canadian Academy encountered similar problems involving unnecessarily high usages of electricity. The effects of this to the local environment can be and are only negative, using up far more resources and money than the school ought to be using. Thankfully, with the recognition and awareness that CA could change for the better came a new annual week-long event called Earth Week that began in 20091, with the hopes of improving the environment. However, Earth Week only happens once a week every year. If CA truly wanted to cut down it’s overwhelming ecological footprint and start up an ecological handprint it could be proud of, shouldn’t we be aiming to conserve energy all year-round? The question then serves: what difference does Earth Week actually make in the school’s electricity consumption, and how could we utilise its programs throughout the year? For Canadian Academy to truly improve their ecological footprint, they should implement the ideals of Earth Week not just for a week, but for every single day of the year.

What is Earth Week? Earth Week is an entire week of events and activities focused on environmental issues2. It started off with the proposal of Earth Day, originally made by John McConnell at the 1969 San Francisco UNESCO conference. United States Senator Gaylord Nelson officially initiated the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Earth Day was then popularised internationally by Denis Hayes in 1990 when he organised environmental events in 141 nations3. Today, Earth Week is known globally and many different people use their resources online to draw attention to the events as well as share and educate others in the multiple ways to maintain a rich and healthy environment.

The purpose of earth week is to continue enlightening and educating people on building a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship with the planet. Earth Week is organised to dedicating an entire week of activities, programs, initiatives and sometimes even workshops all connected to the sustainability of the environment and the conservation of all types of resources and energy4. In schools, the role of Earth Week is becoming increasingly important as the activities are significant in the moulding of intelligent and planet-friendly students. Earth Week mainly aims to inform people and to teach them how to better treat the planet they live in.

Earth Week is usually the span of the whole seven days – Monday through Sunday – but CA’s Earth Weeks usually last only on the school days — Monday through Friday. The events of Earth Week can proceed as follows, based on an Earth Week article by the Huffington Post5:

    • Monday – No Meat Monday is when participants usually avoid eating any meat whatsoever throughout the whole day. The purpose of this is to avoid wasting water because of the amount used to process and clean meat. This has been done at CA before but stopped after 2011.
    • Tuesday – No Power Tuesday is also head at CA and is when typically the participants find as many ways as possible to avoid using electric energy as possible. They shut off their televisions, turn of their lights, shut off their laptops and other electronic devices when not in use, and find other ways to conserve electricity.
    • Wednesday – Use Reusable Mugs and Bottles focuses mainly on eliminating all use of paper cups, plastic cups, and plastic bottles. CA does this by encouraging their students to avoid buying drinks from the vending machines and instead bringing their own water bottles to school to stay hydrated.
    • Thursday — No Paper Waste is exactly what it sounds like in that schools and communities avoid printing and avoid using paper, instead turning to digital means of communication and sharing information. This significantly reduces the use of paper in that certain community.
    • Friday — Bring Your Own Lunch is a simple task that can be done by bringing a homemade packed lunch to school or work in a reusable container instead of using new paper bags, using plastic containers and utensils, or buying lunch from the cafeteria.
    • Saturday — Some communities focus on encouraging people to, instead of shopping and buying new clothes, using and recycling second-hand clothes and products.
    • Sunday — Reduce Water Usage on Sunday can be done by taking shorter showers, keeping the faucet of as much as possible, and doing the dishes and laundry only when full.

These certain events are generally held worldwide but can vary depending on the school, company and community’s policies and own ideals and plans. Canadian Academy has their own take on Earth Week, as do other schools and communities. CA’s Earth Week schedule usually proceeds as follows6:

    • Meat Free Monday: Everyone was asked not to eat meat, similar to the Monday events listed by the Huffington Post.
    • Powerless Tuesday: Also similar to the one mentioned by the Post, CA encourages their students and teachers to avoid using lights, projectors, laptops, and other tools that require electricity. Also, during the entire week, it is important to note that all of CA is advised to turn of all electronic devices and lights when not needed. Powerless Tuesday focuses on conserving the electricity but CA’s Earth Week also aims to conserve electricity all week and not just Tuesday.
    • Zero Food Waste Wednesday: A Wednesday different from the Posts – this event involves all students and teachers taking only the amount of food they can eat and wasting nothing. Bins were set up for the separate grades in middle school (grades 6 through 8) to measure the weight of wasted food per grade.
    • Paperless Thursday: Similar to No Paper Waste Thursday, staff and students were encouraged to reduce their use of paper, including A4 printing paper and paper towels in the bathrooms.
    • Clean-Up Friday: This event was particularly special because it involved gathering volunteers to clean the streets of Rokko Island after school was let out.

All of the events that CA encourages their students to take part of has definitely caused a spark in the awareness of the students. I for one was not aware of all of the unnecessary food, paper, water and electricity waste occurring all year-round. Earth Week has increased my knowledge in the multiple ways to conserve such resources and energy. The weekly events of Earth Week does make an impact in the school’s overall consumption of electricity and the graphs shown below depict the difference Earth Week makes.

The below graph represents the actual figures and numbers provided by the ECO Club, the group in charge of organising Earth Week for Canadian Academy.

We can see from the graph that the difference in electricity consumption is vast in the school’s main building. On a daily basis, or in a normal week (April 2008), represented by the grey bars, the main building used more than 3,500 kilowatts of electricity per hour and that number increased to above 4,500 kilowatts per hour on Thursday. However, thanks to Earth Week, the 2009 statistics of the third week of April turned out to be much better and far more eco-friendly than the third week of April in 2008. As we can see from the graph above, the green bars represent the Earth Week statistics of the main building’s consumption of electricity. There was a vast difference between the Thursdays of 2008 and 2009. All of the electric energy consumption throughout the week never exceeded 3,000 kilowatts per hour, the highest usage being on Monday, at 2974 kilowatts per hour.

The ELAC building’s electricity consumption is a bit of a different story but still shows a large difference between the third weeks of April in 2008 and 2009. Again, the highest consumption of energy in 2008 was on the Thursday again. The reasons for this are unknown. It is for sure however, that the ELAC does use far less electricity as the main building – this is seen in the scale of kilowatts. The main building reaches thousands of kilowatts per hour while the ELAC barely reaches 800 kilowatts per hour each day. In this graph, it seems that the ELAC always used over 400 kW/h in April 2008. Weirdly, during Earth Week 2009, the Monday of that week used 36 more kilowatts of electricity than in 2008. The reasons for this are also unknown but the good news is that on the following Tuesday and onwards, the Earth Week statistics proved to be less (much less, in Thursday’s case) than the normal week in 2008.

We can also see that the differences between 2008 and 2009 are greater in the main building than the ELAC. Now this can be explained. The Early Learning and Activities Centre was designed with the latest updates and technologically that support an environmentally friendly educational structure. It has solar panels and other means of using reusable, recyclable and planet-friendly energy. The ELAC can simply conserve energy a lot easier than the old main building that the high schoolers get the pleasure of using. Because of this, the difference between the ELAC’s normal week and Earth Week is less than the difference between the main building’s normal week and Earth Week. Nevertheless, there is still a difference in the ELAC’s use of electricity and no matter how updated their building’s blueprints are, they should still aim to always use less and less energy every day.

Earth Week obviously has its environmental benefits. The purpose of Earth Week is to benefit the environment. There are absolutely no negative impacts to the ecosystem around us. But the events and goals of Earth Week also has its economic and moral values and advantages.

ECONOMIC BENEFITS: The economic benefits of Earth Week is determined by the amount of money that CA can save in light of all the energy conserved. Sure, Canadian Academy probably uses a certain amount of money in order to purchase appliances and instalments that are more environmentally friendly. But the money that CA can save by practicing Earth Week habits greatly outweighs the amount of resources and money used in favour of [bad] old habits. Earth Week is not only held in school, but teachers and adults from CA encourage their students to bring Earth Week home with them. The events of Earth Week then don’t only benefit the school’s economy but a household’s domestic economy. The changes might seem small, but there’s probably a lot more money that can be saved and a lot more items, groceries, and supplies that can be bought because of that little bit you saved. In the end, it all accumulates and adds up, eventually helping not only the school, but helping families to direct their money at other, maybe more important matters.

MORAL BENEFITS: We need to take into account the importance of the kind of mindset that Earth Week nurtures. People say that Earth Week can make a better school? But how, exactly? Is it because we’re spending less money? Is it because we’re helping by killing less trees, using less water, turning off more lights? Not exactly. It’s because of the kind of lesson we’re teaching our students. Earth Week’s purpose is to enlighten people and to teach them that this planet we live on is valuable, fragile and must be taken care of. It is our responsibility – man’s responsibility – to make sure that the earth is taken care of and that we don’t harm the life that was here before us. Earth Week teaches students to do that. And when you start teaching someone from a very young age, the lessons they learn stay with them forever and they can teach their own children and take those morals and lessons to their grave. If we start by teaching children how to take care of the planet, then those children (essentially the leaders of the future) will know how to cherish and value their relationship with nature and the environment. That is probably the most rewarding benefit that any community can get out of Earth Week. Yes, Earth Week makes your school a better place, but only because it makes better human beings in the first place.

Then, I have to ask, if the effects of the implementations of Earth Week are that beneficial to the environment, our school’s economy, and the morale of our students, couldn’t we start taking things to the next level and really going green? Or a better question – why haven’t we already taken things to the next level? Shouldn’t it be easy to hold back on water every day? Can’t we just keep the lights off all day every day and only turn them on when we actually need them? And really, it’s not that hard to pack your own lunch in a reusable container every day, either. The eco-friendly challenges and tips to a greener lifestyle are all habits my family and I have been practicing since I can remember. Based on personal experience, starting such habits and making those changes is really simple and can be done.

According to Midori Nishizawa, one of the supervisors of ECO Club, the success of the few Earth Weeks held at CA has “changed the school’s mind about conserving energy” and since the first Earth Week, “if not needed, classroom and bathroom lights have been off.7” She also states that “Earth Week is now considered an awareness week in CA and the MS ECO Club is planning to make it a celebration week” which means to say that while Earth Week will stay intact, it will serve as a celebration week because all of the habits and programs during Earth Week will be implemented throughout the year. I’d like to see this not only happen in the Middle School but also in the Elementary and High schools, so that the entirety of CA can “go green.”

Ms. Nishizawa suggests that we reduce PET bottles by pulling out the vending machines in the school. This idea would greatly benefit the school’s ecological footprint but will impact the caterer’s – Cezar’s Kitchen’s – business8. Other methods of generally improving the school’s footprint is to bring our own water bottles and hand towels to reduce PET bottle and paper towel usage.

It’s also simple enough to continue Meatless Mondays every week of the year. Cezar’s Kitchen was able to sponsor it last year and I know that for a fact because I kept in touch with the head of Meatless Monday, Ms. Ann Peterson. If the ECO Club or any group could start up a petition for Meatless Mondays again, it would benefit the school’s consumption of water, meat, and also raise health awareness for the students (and it’s only once a week, so Cezar’s Kitchen wouldn’t be affected that much by the sudden change of meat on the menu). Individuals should also make the painless effort to take only the amount of food that they’ll eat and avoid any kinds of food waste.

In terms of electricity, we can continue reducing our consumption by keeping the lights off unless completely necessary. Also, teachers can constantly tell their students to keep their lids down unless work must be done on the laptops. Ms. Nishizawa also wonders about the lamps and lights used in the main building. It would be beneficial to the school to start saving money to purchase more eco-friendly appliances that can help reduce the amount of electricity consumption9.

Other means of conserving electricity, not just at school but at home, are hanging clothes to dry instead of using an electric dryer, turning down heating and cooling and instead wearing appropriate clothing for the weather, and aiming to use fans for summer and winter (by using a slow fan to push warm air around the room)10.

The simplest changes in life involve avoiding electric powered gadgets and doing things the old-fashioned way, like opening a can with a regular can-opener, and not an electric powered one1. It also involves turning off lots of things, like computers, lights, and TV sets when they’re not needed – which is usually the majority of a person’s time!

Changing a school’s or an individuals way of affecting the earth starts with little steps that eventually become habits than can accumulate saved energy. Earth Week teaches people how to do this by holding events Meatless Mondays, Paperless Thursdays and No Food Waste Wednesdays. Has Earth Week made a significant impact in CA’s electricity consumption? Can we utilise its programs throughout the year to further improve the school? Yes, and yes. Earth Week aims to lessen the consumption of electricity in the year and has succeeded in doing so, impacting Canadian Academy economically and morally. The organisation in charge of Earth Week is also planning to start running the programs year-round. The problem still poses that humans constantly overuse energy and the resources available to them. Granted, the community in Rokko Island and CA is not exempt from those humans. In fact, we are probably part of the larger percentage that uses the most energy and resources. The solution then to reducing CA’s ecological footprint and perhaps starting an ecological handprint is to follow the practices and ideals of Earth Week. It’s so important to maintain good habits that only benefit the planet and teach people how to have a healthy and mutually favourable for both parties. As I stated earlier, it’s important for man to take care of this planet because humans are borrowing from the Earth, the Earth isn’t borrowing from humans. For Canadian Academy to act locally upon this global issue, they should implement the programs of Earth Week for every day of the year and only then can they hope to improve their ecological footprint and start a newer, healthier relationship with the environment.

Self Reflections:

Criterion B –

Criterion D –

Criterion E – 

Criterion F –

§ One Response to not by year, but by day

  • Stephen says:

    Well done – an interesting and well-developed article on the impacts and potential for continuation of Earth Week themes in CA. You’ve made good use of data and your sources and contacts, which makes for engaging reading. You’ve addressed One World issues, though with such a wide focus of issues to tackle have not really pinned down the science or an evaluation of the impacts on them in detail. You have a good range of sources, well cited. The assignment was assessed for A and B, so you don’t need the self-assessments for D and E.

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