February 26, 2008

Tompkins Town Gives 'Green Light' to Sustainable Lightbulbs

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In the latest step toward achieving energy independence from traditional fuel sources, the nearby Town of Caroline will receive compact fluorescent lightbulbs as part of an initiative called Energy Independent Caroline. EIC participants are planning to distribute one bulb to each of the town’s approximately 1200 households in April.
The Compact Flourescent Lightbulbs last eight to 10 times longer than the average incandescent bulb and consume 75 percent less energy than conventional bulbs. Ithaca College and Cornell students, along with other community members, will help distribute the bulbs.
Founded in 2005 when Caroline became the state’s second municipality to purchase wind power for 100 percent of its electricity use, EIC’s ultimate goal is for the town to generate its own wind power instead of purchasing it from outside sources. The light bulb campaign is just the newest initiative taken on to achieve this goal.
One of the group’s leaders, Dominic Frongillo ’05, a Town of Caroline Board member, explained that the group grew out of worries about dependence on fossil fuels.
“EIC attempts to address the problem of fossil fuel dependence,” Frongillo said. “Fossil fuel dependence is environmentally unhealthy and a threat to homeland security. EIC is a group of concerned citizens working to address this situation.”
Other EIC initiatives have included meetings with the New York State Research and Development Authority and educational presentations focusing on saving energy through light bulb use, air leak monitoring and other small-scale changes.
The Sustainability Hub, one of the major environmental groups on campus, will be involved in the effort to distribute the lightbulbs.

“This is what we need people to start doing, to sit down and decide for themselves to become energy independent,” President of the Sustainability Hub Carlos Rymer ’08 said. “Energy Independent Caroline should be studied and admired.”

The Society for Natural Resources Conservation plans to participate in the campaign as well.

In the past, Cornell students have provided important support for the group as members of EIC or through membership in other organizations dedicated to sustainability. Students have written grants, surveyed Caroline’s land to determine where windmills would be most effective and, as part of the Into the Streets events, gone door-to-door in Caroline, speaking with residents on how to save energy.

Shawn Lindabury ’09, who wrote a grant covering part of the light bulb initiative, said that group recruitment is integral to the organization’s success.

“We have a good base but we’re always in need of more members,” he said. “We have great community leadership opportunities for those interested in the environment.”

EIC must also deal with budgetary constraints. The installation of enough windmills to power the town of Caroline would cost millions of dollars, involving costs beyond the group’s current reach.

Environmental activist Rebecca Guarino ’11 noted how important groups such as EIC exist in an age when concerns about fossil fuel dependence, pollution and sustainability abound.

“EIC shows us how the problems of sustainability can start to be solved,” she said. “It’s people working grassroots, from the ground up, to solve their own problems rather than being resigned to energy waste or counting on government help and direction.”

All of those who commented on EIC seem to agree on one point — that Caroline is not just its own success story, but also an example for other similar communities seeking sustainability.

Though the group’s goal of Caroline generating its own electricity is several years down the road, Frongillo has confidence in the steps it has taken to date.

Frongillo said, “Caroline will serve as a model for other small communities that want to achieve sustainability… Everyone has to deal with energy problems. This is one step in a broader, global campaign.”