The RE Project: The Extreme Green Makeover team talks to 3rd- and 4th-graders at Kaimuki Y about energy efficiency. From L to R, Punahou grads Devon Nako, Colby Sameshina, Julian Juarez, Gordon Lai and students at the Y.
Before heading off to college in a few weeks, six students who recently graduated from Punahou will have made an impact on the Kaimuki Y on Waialae Avenue and students there.
The "RE Project: The Extreme Green Makeover" was part of a project for the Student Global Leadership Institute last summer. The theme last year was energy; this year it's health.
Their initial goal was ambitious.
They were aiming to completely retrofit the Kaimuki YMCA into a model for sustainable living, complete with solar heating systems, energy efficient appliances and lighting. They bartered with companies to supply some of these items, seeking to make a trade.
The list included a solar PV system, a solar pool water heater, Energy Star fridges, LED lamps and CFLs, energy efficient stove, power strips, auto-flush toilets and other green technology.
The four parts of the project were to 1) contact people in the community 2) complete an energy audit 3) retrofit and renovate the Y and 4) promote and educate.
Darren Kimura, president of Sopogy, volunteered to complete an energy audit of the Y last fall.
Hawaii Energy stepped up to the plate and offered some of the items in exchange for every additional 1,000 likes the team brought to its Facebook page. So an e-gauge is now part of the deal.
Just last week, the students were back at the YMCA talking to third- and fourth-graders about energy efficiency. They talked about oil and where it comes from (not anywhere in Hawaii), ways to save energy at home and what an EnergyStar appliance is.
Students, donning green hats, walked around the facility to hunt for high-energy users at the Y, identified by a paper lightning bolt. They looked at air-conditioners, the refrigerator and computers. What part of the Y uses the most energy? Turns out it's the swimming pool.
To demonstrate the difference between an incandescent light bulb and CFL (compact fluorescent light), student volunteers went up to turn a hand crank. It takes a lot more cranking to get the incandescent bulb to turn on, much less effort to turn on the CFL. They learned what a smart strip was, and how it could save energy if devices are plugged into one that shuts off automatically at night. They even learned a little bit about global warming, beach erosion and sea level rise.
Kaimuki Y student colors a page with a tip on how to save energy at home.
Afterwards, students colored pages with suggestions on how to save energy, like: "Turn off lights when not in use" and "Remove plugs when not in use" to laminate and take home.
Noa Hussey, the Y's branch executive, said the facility is exploring ways to become more energy efficient and cut back on energy costs. Some of that can happen with simple steps and others might take more investment and time to accomplish. The gears have started rolling, thanks to the project.
"The Y is about youth development, healthy living and social responsibility," said Hussey. "So this is actually the socially responsible thing to do."
Hawaii Energy agreed to supply an e-gauge, which helps monitor how much energy is being used in the facility - but it may take some time before it gets installed. The team is still anticipating that it will obtain a solar heater for the pool and replace the fridge and freezer in the kitchen with EnergyStar appliances.
What they certainly have accomplished is a new way of thinking and increased awareness among students and staff at the Y.
Though the students won't be passing on the project, they've jumpstarted something positive and hopefully it will continue — and they'll go on to make positive changes in the world. All are interested in sustainability for the future.
Gordon Lai heads to UC Berkeley to study business, Colby Sameshina will pursue environmental studies at Tufts University, Devon Nako studies business (with a possible focus on the green energy sector later on) at Creighton University and Julian Juarez heads to Willamette University. Whatever they do later in life, they'll make a difference.
For updates on the RE Project, visit the Extreme Green Project Facebook page.