As a part of their environmental science class in their junior year, Carrboro High students Holly Gallagher and Jocelyn Buckley searched for ways to raise awareness about sustainability.
Now in their senior year, Gallagher and Buckley saw four solar panels installed at Carrboro High School.
They first contacted Dan Schnitzer, the sustainability coordinator for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, who helped them conduct an energy audit of their high school.
They measured the number of lights and the energy being used on the campus during a time when classes were not in session.
“It was rather shocking how many were on when they didn’t need to be,” Gallagher said. “Especially since no one was really in the building.”
Gallagher and Buckley then got in touch with Rob Pinder, the executive director for NextClimate, a nonprofit organization that promotes the use of solar panels.
The organization launched a solar campaign in the fall of 2014 in an effort to make switching to solar energy a possibility for homeowners.
After each home installation of solar panels, the organization sets aside funds to build a learning facility at a local school to help engage students.
“The Carrboro High students had conducted an energy audit and were looking for ways to get solar at their school,” Pinder said.
“So when NextClimate had the funds, Dan Schnitzer helped match our capability to build a learning installation with the dedicated students at Carrboro High.”
The project was not implemented as a means for reducing energy costs for the schools, but to increase education in the community about the significance of solar energy.
“It is there as an educational tool for students in the community to better understand the feasibility of solar,” Schnitzer said.
“We are looking to tie alternatively clean energy education into the curriculum.”
Future plans for sustainability action include implementing programs in high schools throughout the district and a club focused on cafeteria composting at Carrboro High School.
Gallagher said she’s changed her lifestyle as a result of what she’s learned. She said she’ll remind her parents and friends to turn the lights off when leaving the room to save energy.
“I’ve learned the importance of sustainable energy and how a little bit can go a long way,” Gallagher said.
“Carrboro’s actions are making a difference and it can be a domino effect and more people will start to care.”