Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Energy Efficiency: A Field Trip to Navigant

Machines and the Energy They Use

By Kaya

On December 8th the Sprouts of Hope took a field trip to visit Tim Sutherland, an energy efficiency expert who heard of us being interviewed on the Callie Crossley radio show on June 22nd. At that time we were talking about the new book we’d written called “Energy Lite,” and how it was going to be in the Cambridge Public Library for families to borrow along with a Kill A Watt meter.

Tim was driving in his car when he heard us talk about our Kill A Watt book project. He told us that he was excited to hear us —as teenagers—talking about using the same kind of meters that he relies on to measure the energy efficiency of machines like air conditioners and washing machines.

When we met him, Tim told us he thought it was amazing that we’d done this book about saving energy by using Kill A Watt meters—and he wanted to meet us.

He works for Navigant Consulting where he does projects for the U.S. Department of Energy. He is paid to figure out how technology can be made more energy efficient. He works with Heather Lisle, and on the day we visited, their colleague Judy Reich was there, too, with her son and daughter, who are about the same age as we are.

Tim and Heather spend their time taking apart different kinds of machines, such as washing machines, refrigerators and freezers and window air conditioning units. They both studied science in college and Tim majored in aerospace engineering and rocket science at MIT before he decided that he wanted to do something about energy efficiency. We found out that Heather graduated from Dartmouth after studying earth science and physics. Judy studied mechanical engineering, aerospace, and science research.

Now they all work on these projects at Navigant, where they take apart and test appliances. By doing so they learn the best designs that create more energy efficient machines. They use a sophisticated meter to gauge the energy use of each machine as well as its stand-by (vampire) power usage. With a washing machine, the goal is to find ways for the machine to use about 0.01 watts when the power is off.

After Tim and Heather told us about their work, they showed us various parts of a washing machine that they’d taken apart—and we learned how magnets can work to make them more energy efficient.

Tim also told us about LEDs, which stands for Light-emitting diode, and he explained how these lights are even more energy efficient than compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL). You can see Eliza holding an LED in her right hand and a CFL in her left.

Right now the LED bulbs are very expensive compared with CFLs and incandescent bulbs. But as was the case when people started to use CFLs to replace incandescent bulbs, these new LEDs cost a lot more to buy. However, they also last a lot longer than CFLs and consume less energy. So pretty soon it’s likely that more and more people will be using them. And LEDs don’t have the mercury problem that CFLs do, so they aren't a health problem if you drop them and disposing of them isn't so complicated.

Since we've gotten accustomed to using CFLs and like knowing how much energy we were saving by using them, we were shocked to find out how much more energy can be saved by using LEDs. Thanks to Tim and Health for showing us this difference.

We had a fun time visiting with Tim and Heather and Judy and learning about their jobs and seeing where they work. Hopefully sometime we can work together on a project.

Endangered Species: Our Roots & Shoots Youth Summit

Face-to-Face With a Dodo Bird

By Maya

On November 13th we went to our third annual Youth Summit held by the New England Roots & Shoots. This year the theme was endangered species. We started the day by listening to a speech and watching a power point presentation about various endangered species. We learned about how extinction is a natural process, but also how it is now caused in part by what humans do.

At the end of the opening session, the Sprouts once again won an award for our work with environmental issues—and for being New England Roots & Shoots’ most active group. During the rest of the day we split up to go to our different sessions. In them, we learned about polar bears, sustainable eating, parrots in Guyana, projects in Brazil and Ecuador, and recyclable art.

During our lunch break at the summit there was also a photo shoot going on. The photographer was our good friend John Tagiuri, who my mom and I first met at an energy efficiency fair in Cambridge. The Sprouts met him when he asked us to dress up like the Statue of Liberty and hold a CFL bulb where the torch would be.

Last year at the Youth Summit, John took cool photographs of us standing on the earth (okay, it was really a ball) and kicking plastic water bottles away while we held reusable ones.

This year he came up with a really fun idea that involved endangered species. He had us pose with an extinct animal—the Dodo Bird. Each of the Sprouts posed for numerous shots—and then we posed together. John printed them while we were there and then hung them on the wall. Later we got to take them home after we filled out a form about our summit experience.

We received T-shirts and bags full of coupons and snacks. It was really a great opportunity to meet new Roots & Shoots groups and to hear about the projects they are doing. The Youth Summit was a lot of fun, thanks to the incredible efforts of Roots & Shoots director Kellan Hays. Thank you, Kellan!