The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 30, 2007


The Climate Change Symposium last Saturday at Concord-Carlisle High School drew large and enthusiastic crowds, eager to learn how to save energy and to view An Inconvenient Truth. (Photo by Lois d'Annunzio)

Saving energy, one light bulb at a time

Three televisions, two cable boxes, a TiVo box, two computers, a printer, three DVD players, five phones, and an extra refrigerator in the basement — this is only the first part of the list of things in my house that waste energy daily. While I was at the Climate Change Symposium at CCHS last Saturday, I felt aware of my energy-wasting self among an auditorium of hybrid-car drivers. But before the afternoon was over, I became devastatingly aware of the price we pay when we forget to turn lights off when leaving a room.

The morning began with a keynote speech from Marc Breslow of the Mass. Climate Action Network (MCAN). The MCAN works with t around the state to form a plan for their entire community that saves energy and in the long run, saves money. Breslow explained that towns like Lexington and Newton, and especially Boston, are at different stages in the process. For example, Newton's new school additions are being built as "green" buildings, using Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) instead of incandescent bulbs. Concord is also discussing a plan to reform lighting in parts of town.

Breslow impressed on the audience the importance of spending a little more money now in order to save big in the future. He also stressed that just turning off the TV does not necessarily save energy if there is a clock on it, or if your TiVo box is recording something. He suggested plugging a group of electronics to a power strip, so when you flick the switch on the strip, your TV, DVD, and stereo system all go off.

Eighth-grader Lucy King shows a plant that was placed in a jar on February 8, and sealed up. The plant has been self-sustaining ever since. (Photo by Lois d'Annunzio)

Information booths and Al Gore movie

At ten o'clock, the booths opened in the cafeteria where more than 50 groups and organizations, including schools and companies, shared their information on energy efficiency and global warming. Meanwhile, Al Gore's award-winning movie, An Inconvenient Truth, played in the auditorium. I knew close to nothing about the subject, and the movie opened my eyes to the connection between driving an SUV and watching Hurricane Katrina devastate the south. The numbers and charts didn't mean much to me, but the energy we throw away daily is causing the planet to fight back in the only way it can communicate — natural disasters. I'm no saint, but it wouldn't kill me to replace a few lights in my house or turn off my computer while I sleep. I head to the cafeteria to learn more about what I can do.

Interestingly enough, even though they cannot drive yet, the students in the Concord and Carlisle middle schools know a lot about hybrid cars and global warming, light bulbs, and geothermal and nuclear energy. The entire eighth grade is part of an eco-fair each year, where all the students make a fake bumper sticker with a climate-friendly slogan. My favorites are, "Walk the walk, talk the talk — be cool, but don't waste fuel!" and, of course, "Choose nuclear power, save a flower," complete with illustration.

The CCHS students tell me about the incredible saving power of CFLs, with impressive numbers to prove it. The Thoreau School students have a lot to share about compost, and explain how their school is involved in a project where their food waste becomes fertilizer to help grow more food in Concord's community garden for the hungry.

Gaining Ground has a similar goal. CCHS students Claire Teylouni and Camilla Vogt describe Gaining Ground's program in which students grow organic food for refugees. About the symposium itself, Vogt adds, "It's nice to see so many people who obviously care about our environment, about helping save it and teaching other people about it."

Making a difference in Carlisle

How can we make a difference here in Carlisle? With no traffic lights to replace with LED, and no way to walk to work, the best thing we can do is try, little by little. Those who can afford hybrid cars should look into it. Washing machines that save both time and energy are only slightly more expensive than more affordable models. But the cheapest and easiest steps we can take are as simple as replacing a light bulb. CFLs may be a few dollars more than your everyday incandescent lights, but it's a myth that they don't give off the same kind of glow. One booth showed two light bulbs, both turned on, but one used 60 watts and the other only 12 watts. Had the numbers been covered up, it would have been impossible to know which bulb produced which kind of light — thus shattering my assumption that fluorescent lights always make a room resemble a hospital or a school hallway.

To join the fight against climate change and to save more energy, check out, a new web site that calculates the energy you waste every day and suggests easy ways to lower your impact. Also, to push Carlisle toward an MCAN plan, visit

After seeing so many people pushing for a better environment and a safer natural world, I felt recruited to the cause. Most of the people at the symposium already were aware of the need for change. It is clear that the only way to truly make a difference is to spread the word and encourage people to adjust their everyday lives.

So this is me spreading the word, and any minute now I will turn off this computer and go read a book.

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito