A DECA Club project at Durango High School was put into action this week when LED light bulbs were installed in the school’s entryway, with more to come for the building and parking lot.
Seniors Jenna Engelken and Anna Joslin, along with junior Ruby Epstein, spent months researching and writing their 30-page Kill-a-Watt proposal, which they presented to the Durango School District 9-R school board in December.
“Their parking lot plan will significantly improve the brightness of the lot in the evening, providing more safety for students, staff and patrons leaving late at night following practices, performances and games,” DECA advisor David Dillman said. “The increased brightness via industrial LED (light-emitting diode) lighting will pay for itself in less than three years through reduced electricity use and La Plata Electric Association commercial rebates provided for the upgrade.”
The team’s presentation of its proposal at the Colorado DECA Conference, held at The Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs at the end of February, garnered a first-place finish in the community service category.
“We knew going in we wanted to do some kind of partnership with LPEA and renewables,” Jenna said. “Our main ‘aha!’ came after we spent at least a month or two working on the idea of putting solar panels on DHS before we realized that wasn’t possible.”
They shifted to making an impact with a smaller change, Ruby said.
“People do seem to skip over light bulbs to bigger, newer technology,” Anna said. “But changing to LEDs will make a big change.”
The high school’s average monthly electric bill is about $11,000, 9-R facilities supervisor Ed Webb said. The project will replace 268 bulbs inside the school and 22 parking lot lights, with completion scheduled before school resumes in August. The facilities team expects to have about one-third completed this spring. The building relies on about 2,000 bulbs and fluorescent tubes for illumination.
The change is expected to save the district about $6,000 annually.
It didn’t take much to sell to the district on the idea.
“Several of the changes they recommended were already in the budget,” 9-R superintendent Dan Snowberger said. “The others our supervisor of facilities Ed Webb said he didn’t see as a problem.”
The district began conservation efforts in 2012, including low-flow toilets and replacing fluorescent tube lights, District 9-R spokeswoman Julie Popp said. Many of those changes also resulted immediately in cost savings.
The interest in electricity came about when Jenna wanted to combine her experience on LPEA’s National Rural Electricity Tour to Washington, D.C., with her DECA experience.
“I never knew there was so much behind the delivery of electricity, and that we take so much for granted,” she said. “Small, but mindful changes can make a big impact over time, resulting in huge savings for a large organization while simultaneously reducing our carbon footprint.”
Jenna plans to study environmental engineering and hopes to pursue her degree at the University of British Columbia. Anna intends to stay involved in sustainability, but her main goal is to study fashion in New York City or Los Angeles.
The bulbs are only stage one of the proposal, which included the formation of an Environment Center at the school and a campaign to encourage schools around the state to pursue similar measures, Jenna said. Among their initiatives will be an education campaign to get teachers and students to turn off lights and computers.
“We may not be able to save the world, but we can make a bigger impact,” she said. “The dollars we save can go back into the classroom, and schools aren’t wasting taxpayers’ money.”
This is the second year in a row that a DECA project has been implemented at the high school. In September, the Demon Deli opened at DHS. It was the brainchild of Class of 2016 students Mason Stetler and Jared Webster, who won second place for creative marketing with their 30-page business plan for the deli at an international DECA conference in April 2016.
The Kill-a-Watt team will present its project at the international conference in Anaheim, California, next month.
“We applaud the DECA team and the research and suggestions proposed,” Popp said. “We are equally impressed with their attention to the safety aspects of access to and around the school. We wish them the best at their upcoming national competition in Anaheim. We know they will represent DHS and Durango well.”