Campus reduces electricity use

Sammy Roth

Electricity use at the upper school campus was reduced by 13 percent last week, capping off the school’€™s second week of participation in the Green Cup Challenge.

More than 200 public and private schools across the country are participating in the GCC, which started Jan. 25 and ends Feb. 22. The goal of the GCC is for schools to reduce their electricity use by seven percent.

Environmental Club Vice President Jessica Barzilay ’12 brought the GCC to Harvard-Westlake this year, promoting it with the “Lights Out H-W” campaign which is advertised on posters around campus. The Environmental Club members are asking that students turn off computers when they finish using them, and that teachers turn off the lights in classrooms where windows provide enough natural light.

The Computer Services department is also making an effort to reduce electricity use. In the past, all lab computers on campus automatically turned on at 7 a.m. Now, no computer turns on until a student sits down and turns it on (an arrangement that will continue after the GCC ends).

“Every little bit counts,” Barzilay said. “I know it’s cliché, but I feel like this is an area in which when we take action, it actually makes a difference.”

During the first week of the GCC, the upper school campus saw a 16 percent energy reduction, but that was largely because semester break led to a three day school week.

Barzilay learned about the GCC last year. To get Harvard-Westlake involved, she sought approval from Environmental Club advisor Martha Wheelock, head of the Green Committee Kent Palmer and Head of Upper School Harry Salamandra, all of whom got onboard.

Wheelock said she hopes that turning off computers and lights will become “habits of mind.”

“I feel like when you can see the reduction, when people know what’s happening, that it will be a motivator to keep turning off the lights when it’s not just February,” Barzilay said. “Even though the contest ends, the effort continues.”

Barzilay is responsible for monitoring the school’€™s weekly electricity use and reporting it to the Green Schools Alliance, the organization behind the GCC. Every Friday after school during the GCC, she reads the campus’s five electrical meters, and uses the readings to calculate that week’s electricity use. A few months ago, she met with two officers from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, who showed her how to read electrical meters.

Before the competition began, Barzilay used old utilities bills to calculate the campus’s “baseline” electricity use during the last three years. Now, she compares each week’€™s energy use to this number to calculate the percent decrease.

Wheelock said that while a few faculty members have told her that they do not think the GCC is a worthwhile effort, most of the feedback she has received has been overwhelmingly positive.