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Posted - 10/11/2016
Pause & Effect: Educational Efficiency by Zach Tucker of Change the Bulb
Document1.jpgEducation and technology have been dating for quite some time, but recently a new aspect of their relationship has begun to surface: energy-efficiency. This evolving courtship is now leaving the classroom and making its way across the entire campus with the implementation of LED lighting, solar, and HVAC systems. But just as there always is with additional school needs, there is one big problem with this new expansion - many schools can’t afford the beneficial upgrades.

This problem is what my team and I set out to change on our pause for a handful of St. Louis schools. One week in the middle of nowhere, 4 school gymnasiums, and 100 LED light fixtures, all working to lower U.S. carbon emissions and create a better education for thousands of St. Louis children. 

At our LED company we have a simple program called Change the Bulb; for every LED project we complete, we donate LED fixtures to struggling families to help them save over $1,000 a year on their electric bills. Since creating Change the Bulb, we have outfitted several homes with Habitat for Humanity St. Louis, many village homes in Nicaragua, and a school campus in Haiti. These projects are currently changing lives by saving families and organizations money on their electric bills all through the simple combination of giving and energy efficiency. But as young individuals that care about our environment and the well-being of others, we couldn’t help but want to do more.

When we discovered Invoking The Pause, we immediately saw an opportunity to take our giving to the next level. What was this next level? You guessed it. Education. Just as the vacancy of a new computer system in a classroom negatively affects a student’s education, so does the void of energy efficient solutions on the school grounds. Energy efficiency can save a school drastic amounts of money every single year, which provides extra funds to propel and expand their student’s learning experiences.

Aware of the advantages LED Lighting could bring to the classroom, our team outlined a plan to transition 4 St. Louis schools that could not afford to make the critical transition. The only problem for us was that we had full time jobs which didn’t provide us the time needed to plan such a large project. This project was unlike anything we had attempted with our giving, so it would take a large amount of time to plan, organize, and coordinate things. The solution to this problem? Taking a pause. With the funds provided by Invoking The Pause, our team was able to take a step away from our daily professional and personal duties to focus solely on our project. We planned our trip for the most remote and calm surroundings we could find - Zion National Park in Utah. Not only would this location provide us with the space from our busy lives, it would also allow us to disconnect from the world. And that’s exactly what we did. 

Brief project overview

Our team would pause for one week near Zion National Park to coordinate the transition of 4 St. Louis elementary school gymnasiums to low-wattage LED lighting. Along with our fixture donations, we would also supply energy and environmental education materials to the students to teach them the incredible things these new lights were doing for their school and their planet.

Why gymnasiums? To positively affect as many students as possible.  

*Transitioning an entire school to LED costs a lot of money, so we decided to go for a more realistic goal and focus on one location at each school to spread our impact. We chose gymnasiums as our focus because gym light fixtures use more energy than any other fixtures on campus. With the large number of high wattage fixtures combined with the long burn hours (gyms are in use before, during, and after school), we could save each school the most on their electric bills by concentrating on their gyms.  

How much will the schools save? Close to $110,000 each in energy savings and $15,000 each in maintenance savings over the lifespan of the fixtures. 

*Each school will save around $5,500 a year, which is enough to provide 5 classrooms with new computer systems. The schools will also no longer have to buy replacement bulbs for their tradition fixtures that burn out every 3-4 years. 

How many students will it affect? Over 10,000.

*Each school has an average of 500 students. The LED fixtures will last anywhere from 15-20 years. 500 initial students, plus roughly 100 new students a year over 20 years equals 2,500 students for each school. In the end over 10,000 St. Louis students will receive educational benefits from the LED fixtures. 

What is the total potential carbon reduction? 1,600 metric tons

Equivalent to:
-Planting 414,658 trees 
-3,380 cars taken off the road 
-5,078 tons of waste recycled instead of landfilled 
-4 industrial wind turbines installed
-37,043 barrels of oil consumed 

The pause: 

The team and I planned a 5-day excursion to Virgin, Utah, which is just outside Zion. We wanted to ensure our trip was as friendly to the environment as our project was, so made as many sustainable efforts as we could. Our main effort was renting an Airbnb villa that was fully off the grid, which included solar power, full LED lighting, and water conservation systems. We also bought all our food for the trip from a local sustainable food market. Document2.jpg

Over the course of the week in the villa we engaged in countless conversations with the parties to be involved in our project. Our biggest hurdle that we needed clear on the trip was securing fixture donations from LED manufactures. We spoke to several national LED manufactures and told them our story, why we were pausing, and how their companies could help change lives by donating fixtures for our project. Our second objective was locating the best possible locations for the lights to be installed. We spoke with several St. Louis school districts to explain the benefits the lights would provide their schools and their students. The response from both the manufactures and the schools was extremely positive and both parties were thrilled to join the project.

Aside from our project work, we were also able to take a few adventures into our surroundings. One of the reasons we chose Virgin was its famous terrain, so we took full advantage of our stay to explore and experience the raw nature around us. This was extremely beneficial to our project because it allowed us to interact with the planet that we were working to save on a level that we had never experienced before. We hiked the narrows in Zion, traveled to a mountaintop water reservoir, and when the sun went down we saw a sky full of stars that we had yet to ever witness. The night sky in Virgin was nothing short of breathtaking.

Our most memorable experience on the trip was simply viewing our surroundings for the first time. When we arrived at our pause destination it was pitch black, so we had to wait until the morning to see our new environment. When we woke up the next morning, we were brought to a standstill by the sunrise. The scenery was unlike anything we had seen before. The mountains, the terrain, the sky, the plants, the air; it was a sensory overload that will stick with us all forever.  Document1_1.jpg

After 5 days of planning, adventuring, and pausing, our project had come together. We had our fixture commitments, our school locations, and a new outlook on life. Being on our pause changed us. From our newly found surroundings and adventures, to the 100% focus on giving back and helping others for an entire week straight, we were better people returning to St. Louis. However, we were not only returning changed, we were returning with a new purpose. A purpose that we believed in and one we knew would help others for years to come.

A pause was invoked, a change was made, and the road ahead is clear.
*Our project installations will begin later this year!