Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cambridge Science Festival: The Sprouts of Hope Exhibit

Spreading the Word: Energy Efficiency

By Lilly

On a Saturday at the end of April, the Sprouts of Hope had an exhibit in the Cambridge Science Festival. It was designed to educate people – adults and kids – about energy and how to use it efficiently and save money and the planet by doing so.

As part of our display, we used Kill-A-Watt meters to show how much energy different appliances use. With the help of John Taguiri, who also photographed us posing as the Statue of Liberty holding as the torch an energy-efficient CFL light bulbs, we set up an interactive exhibit so we could easily compare the energy use of fluorescent lightbulbs to regular ones. When people stopped by, we’d ask them to guess how many CFLs it would take to equal the energy used by one incandescent bulb. And then we’d show them. Often they were surprised by what they saw.

Also, by cooking chocolate chip cookies – that were snapped up by hungry kids whenever they were cooked – in a toaster over, we were able to demonstrate how much energy it uses to do things like cooking. The biggest hit, however, was a hair dryer; we plugged it in and turned it on high and people were amazed at how much energy it uses. As they saw the Kill-A-Watt meter leap to more than 1,000 on its register, a lot of them said they’d think twice about drying their hair that way.

We also created a cool patchwork quilt. Each of us made drawings of various renewable energy sources. We put those drawings on a piece of green felt and those patches were placed on it. This quilt hung behind our exhibit. We also put a bit of information about these forms of renewable energy on matching felt pieces; when kids came to our table, they could see what form of energy they wanted to learn more about and match it with the colored felt piece that had the information on it. Let me share one example:

On our quilt, we had a picture on a light purple piece of felt that showed what it looks like to heat a building using Geothermal Energy. On the matching felt patch, we wrote: Geothermal heat pumps use the temperature underground as a source of energy. They use 25 to 50 percent less electricity than conventional heating.

Other pictures and words told about bike riding and solar energy, wind energy and how to charge your cell phone in a way that saves energy. (Unplug the charger when you aren’t using it.)

In the other half of our display, we held an “educational” raffle. For a child to get a raffle ticket, they had to play a quick game in which they answered a few multiple choice questions about energy. The game they did depended on their age. Some used pictures; some had only words. Once they did that, they got to put their ticket in the jar for one of three kids’ prize baskets with a selection on stuffed animals and CDs, that were donated by NStar.

For an adult, to get a raffle ticket, they had to fill out a pledge card sharing ways they said they would work to save energy.
Here are a few examples of what people wrote on these cards that began with the words “I pledge to:”

· Fix my bicycle and start riding it more than driving my car to use less fossil fuels and reduce my carbon footprint.
· Turn off lights that aren’t being used.
· Turn down the water heater.
· Add insulation to walls and attic.
· Continue replacing bulbs with CFLs.
· Keep my air conditioner about 70 degrees or warmer in the summer and at 65 degree in the winter.
· Compost all my food scraps
· Help my grandchildren with good conservation habits early.
· Use less water.
· Shut off TV when no one is watching it.
· Not use the clothes dryer in the summer more than once a week.
· Get a Prius.
· Use less electricity at home and work.

Once they’d made their pledge, they could put their raffle ticket in a jar for one of two energy efficiency kits (donated by NStar and Dominion Energy) or a gift certificate to Greenward, a local environmentally friendly store that has been a great friend and supporter to the Sprouts of Hope. Last year, Greenward also donated a raffle prize when we did a different exhibit at the Cambridge Science Festival. This year, Tags Hardware, another neighborhood store, also lent us a display meter that we used to show people how to set up the Power Cost Monitors to figure out how much energy they are using in their homes, just like we did in our project with NStar.

The festival last for four hours – and this was a very long time for all of us to be talking and explaining things about energy to the many families who stopped by, not to mention keeping track of all of the raffle prize games. Even though there were a lot of us there, it still was tiring to explain again and again to all the new people who stopped by how fluorescent lightbulbs are better for the earth than incandescent bulbs and answer other question about how to use energy more efficiently. But it was worth it when every once in a while, a little kid would go “Hey Mommy! Let's buy the swirly ones instead of the regular ones! They save the earth!”

Climbing Walls, Selling Food

Even before the Cambridge Science Festival ended, we were on our way to MetroRock in Everett, an indoor rock climbing facility where every winter we go to celebrate our time together as Sprouts of Hope. And some of us also taking climbing classes there.

When the folks at MetroRock heard that we do a bake sale/food sale every year to raise money to support causes – local and international – that we believe are a part of the Roots & Shoots mission, they invited us to hold do it during a fundraising climbing event to raise money for cancer research and the Boston-based Jimmy Fund for kids with cancer. So a couple of the Sprouts decided to climb (to raise money for the Jimmy Fund) and we also helped with the bake sale/food sale.

Another wonderful partner of ours, Taza Chocolate, which makes organic chocolate from beans they get in the Dominican Republic through a cooperative farming community and does so in a building very near to our school, donated an assortment of their chocolate bars and we did a raffle for those at MetroRock.

It was fun doing this climb and bake sale – and tiring, after our long day at the festival already. But we raised about $250.00 that night for our effort. By climbing, we also raised money for the Jimmy Fund. These funds, combined with some we’ve raised in different ways, we will give away after we have time to meet and discuss where we’d like the money to go. One place for sure: The Sprouts of Hope Fund to enable kids who don’t have the resources to start a Roots & Shoots group to be able to do so.

Take a look on the right hand column of our blog for more information about the Sprouts of Hope Fund – with a link letting you know how to contribute to it and another link showing us on Facebook with a message to encourage people to donate to this cause. We hope you will.

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