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The Daily Tar Heel

Chapel Hill High club fosters green energy

Photo: Chapel Hill High club fosters green energy (Sofia Morales)
Yuaing Chen, Anna Li and Kristen Powers from the Green Tigers decorated recycling bins during the Green Your School Challenge.

For Kristen Powers, real change came with the installation of a light switch.

As president of the Green Tiger Campaign, an environmental club at Chapel Hill High School, Powers and 29 other students worked to inspire discussion on climate change using Facebook and recycling events.

The students’ efforts placed them among the top five schools in the Green Your School Challenge for the second year running.

“We had never really made a tangible, eco-friendly change to our school infrastructure,” Powers said. “This is the first example that we had where we were able to know that we significantly reduced the energy use of our school.”

But the motion-detecting light switches the club installed in the school’s teacher’s lounges were just the beginning.

Powers said her club plans to use a portion of the $1,000 grant it received for winning the challenge to install motion-detecting light switches in five classrooms.

The remaining money will be split between the club’s community garden, which provides free produce to low-income families, and activities the group is planning for the next school year, Powers said.

Melanie Stevenson, director of business development for, said the club competed against students from over 2,500 schools nationwide, including 11 from North Carolina.

“The goal of the program is to empower young people to create change in the place where they spend most of their time, a place where they can work together with their friends and really have a big impact on important environmental issues,” Stevenson said.

Winners were selected by a panel of judges including model and activist Olivia Munn, photographer Nigel Barker, members of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, representatives from TreeHugger and the Alliance for Climate Education.

Among other factors, the judges evaluated the participants on the percentage of people involved in the projects, the use of technology and the innovative qualities of the projects.

Powers said coming up with fresh ideas was one of the most difficult parts of the challenge.

“This year we made sure that every single day for Earth Week we had something really cool and relevant to climate change that would raise awareness and make a difference,” she said.

The club created a recycling center for items that are harder to recycle, like batteries. It also constructed a 12-foot by 12-foot cube meant to represent 250 pounds of carbon dioxide — the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that could be avoided by recycling a household’s weekly supply of newspapers, according to the Green Your School website.

Anna Li, who will be the club’s president next year, said she thinks it is important to be environmentally friendly because the actions people take today affect everyone’s future.

“In this club, you feel like you’re actually doing something,” she said.

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