In a world where our ignorance leads to pollution and global warming, terms such as renewable energy, eco friendly awareness, green power, conservation, and sustainability, are often repeatedly discussed in modern society. Yet what exactly does it mean to be sustainable? Does being sustainable mean turning off taps/lights when they’re not used? Or is there a deeper meaning behind it?
Recently in our Individuals and Societies class we began project involving the entire class to work as one group. Our theme is: “In order to create a sustainable YIS community we must be innovators”. Before we started anything, we brainstormed questions we had about the project (eg. what is sustainability? What does it mean to be innovators) and then we formed a circle in the middle (which later became our usual way of discussing) and discussed possible ways to be sustainable while we jotted down our meeting minutes on this google doc. According to our teacher, our class will present some sort of end “project/product” in which we will pitch our idea to the school board. We learnt that the other I&S class (our nemesis) are planning to use solar power to power some parts of the school. In an attempt to mimic the ways of innovators, we brainstormed ideas such as using scrap food from the cafeteria for biofuel, hydrogen, pressure plates, green curtain, rainwater harvesting, algae plants, bicycle generation (wheels), wind power, and many more. Taking the experience I had from GINSING (global issues network, singapore), my friend and I suggested that we use “Trello” to organize our ideas. You can view our trello board here. After we chose our basic ideas we formed groups and then researched the details of each topic (advantages/disadvantages, how it works, etc). One of our members called UWC, a school in singapore, which used rainwater harvesting techniques and managed to get in contact with the school president. Then after looking at through a realistic perspective, we eliminated ideas until wind, solar power, green curtain, and ene farm. Ene farm is a Japanese residential hot water supply which can also generate electricity. Starstruck by this interesting concept, we decided to pursue ene farm as our final project and possibly use it for the school gym to generate hot showers and air conditioning.
We were fools, however. Once we organized ourselves into research groups (eg. fuel cell operation, architectural planning, finance, etc.), we soon discovered the problems behind the project. First of all, we discovered that ene farm uses fuel cells to generate electricity by extracting hydrogen from the hydrocarbon, “LP gas” (liquified petrol) from the city gas supply. It then uses electrolysis of water to react the hydrogen with oxygen to produce the byproduct of heat. This heat is then used to supply hot water and electricity. This means that although the electricity generated in the fuel cells is clean, its source is still from fossil fuels. Also we figured out how inefficient ene farm was once we calculated the amount it generates. You see, after we called the company, we found out that ene farm generates about 220 kW per month, yet it isn’t enough as our gym uses approximately 2000 kW per month. In addition if we calculate how long it would take to pay the money back, it would take about 186 years in total, almost two centuries! Yes, it was evident that we had made a terrible mistake. By the time we had realized this, the other class had already called solar companies and had even taken some officials on tour around the school to look into possible solar pannel locations. We all lost hope – all those weeks of research going down the drain. We were in the middle of accepting our loss when a classmate of ours stood up and gave an inspirational speech. We then decided go back to the drawing board and start over by pitching several of our initial small projects like bicycle generating, pressure plates, wind turbines, and along with new ideas like double/triple windows to save heat costs. We also creating an “ideas of ways to conserve energy” group which mainly focuses on awareness. This is where we are right now.
Although we’ve had our set backs, in the end we managed to make it this far. Right now we are currently making our TSC/criteria in which we will be assessed on. At first it seemed as though the other group were ahead of us, we realized that a) we have a gathering of the best speakers/presentators in our class and b) we’ve got creativity on our side. For instance, when presenting an idea to the board, it is essential to give a binder full of information of our research. However being the innovators we are, we decided to use “iBooks Author“, an professional book making app that can not only improve the aesthetic of our information, but can be imported into iPads like a professional book. Its also a wonderful idea as it shows how ‘sustainable’ and creative we are by using wed 2.0 technology to conserve paper. Overall though I thoroughly enjoy this project as it requires everyone to work together as a team, combining our talents to make YIS a sustainable community, and to possibly leave a legacy behind.