The fruits of months of labor were finally enjoyed on Saturday, April 26 at Hiram’s celebration of Earth Day “Roots of Resilience, Routes of Change.” Although the crowd was more intimate than we had planned, those in attendance report “learning a ton of useful stuff,” “having an awesome time,” and “lovin’ the tunes.” In case you missed it, here’s a re-cap.
Renewable energy expert Dan Chiras does not characterize himself as an optimist (glass half-full) nor as a pessimist (glass half-empty), but rather as a chemist—“the glass is full: half in the liquid state and half in the air state.” In other words, understanding the facts helps us see things more clearly. Chiras had A LOT to say, but the takeaway message was this: when it comes to energy and climate, the number of opportunities for us to act is mind-boggling. And given that roughly half of all of the energy consumed in the U.S. is wasted, conservation and efficiency should be at the top of everyone’s priority list.
This segued nicely into Nate Adams’ myth-busting mission about the factors that contribute to "home performance." To highlight key points, don’t believe the hype about insulation, ‘low-hanging fruit,’ houses with lungs, or free energy efficiency lunches. Data show that: sealing air leaks matters more than insulation, good home performance demands attention to the thermal envelope and the HVAC system, the air coming into your house from attic, basement, walls, and crawl space may not be so good (Nate’s mantra: “build tight, ventilate right), and although efficiency measures can help pay for themselves, there’s no reason to believe that we will—or should—recoup all associated costs. And that's okay. Nobody expects a kitchen renovation or a car repair to pay for itself.
After all Nate's talk about houses, Kim Foreman moved on to talking about the people who live in them. Just as there is no ‘one size fits all’ prescription for achieving home performance, empowering communities to address environmental problems means working with the particular people in them to learn about their: everyday experiences, perceptions, knowledge, available resources, and goals. She stressed the importance of making sure you have good work to do while you work toward longer-term goals (like policy or big changes in infrastructure). Speaking of which....
While many Hiram students dream of a zero-waste campus, a few are exploring initial measures that can make a difference while bringing us closer to that goal. During the Idea Generator portion, three students proposed ideas to phase out plastic bottles and create convenient and coordinated recycling processes across campus. They plan to continue discussions about next steps and implementation for next year.
While most of us were inside, the kids were smart enough to enjoy the day outdoors. Thanks to Jane O'Brien and her student assistants for showing them a great time!
At the end of the day we got to kick back and enjoy the music of Tim Kasper and friends (the 'friend' below is Hiram's own Nate Frances, 2014, on guitar) and the fabulous Porch Swing.
Thank you to all who helped make this a great day!