Watt watchers look to save

School project targets home utility costs

CHILDREN are usually spared the responsibility of dealing with monthly bills, but at Chartwell elementary in West Vancouver students are paying special attention to mail from the utility companies.

Approximately 100 students in grades 4 to 7 are participating in an educational program focused on family sustainability. The newly dubbed "watt watchers" have been tasked with collecting their household bills from BC Hydro and Fortis Natural Gas, monitoring their homes' utility meters, and inputting the data into a web program.

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The project is being led by Roger Bayley, a professional engineer and expert in sustainable living development. The goal, he says, is to increase students' awareness of their daily energy use and strategize ways to save power and money. "Those children will influence and impact their parents' understanding of energy and conservation and the value of energy in their homes," Bayley said.

He visited Chartwell last week to launch the project.

"(The kids) were really enthused about it and there's a lot of variation, of course, between the different living circumstances that they have," he said, explaining the students' utility bills ranged from $18 to $860, depending on the size of the home and number of family members living there.

Bayley will return to the school Feb. 18 to help the kids brainstorm energy-savings strategies, such as turning off unused lights or taking shorter showers. In early April, the students will report back on how much energy their families were able to save.

Awards will be presented to the biggest savers.

In the meantime, Bayley is seeking out North Shore business sponsors to make a cash contribution based on the kilowatts collectively saved. He is also proposing that parents donate their total utility savings back to the school.

Chartwell principal Aron Campbell said he is pleased a sustainability expert is willing to give his time to such a relevant student learning opportunity.

If all goes well, Bayley hopes to expand the meter-reading program to other North Shore schools next winter.


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