University News

Earth-friendly light bulb project nears goal

By
Contributing Writer
Monday, October 19, 2009

How many Brown student groups does it take to change 67,000 light bulbs?

Just one. Project 20/20, a student-run program that installs energy-efficient lighting in low-income Providence households, is nearing its goal of replacing the light bulbs in 5,000 homes with compact fluorescent lamps.

The project began in the spring of 2008, the brainchild of Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Steven Hamburg, Providence resident David Fox and a small group of students.

The idea was simple: At no cost to residents, the group would install compact fluorescent lamps in low-income households, saving each family $10 to $15 on every monthly utility bill while reducing the community’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Gradually, Project 20/20 expanded to include numerous paid staff and volunteers and continued a steady march toward its initial target of 5,000 houses. It has now served over 4,900.

As the largest program under the umbrella of the Community Carbon Use Reduction at Brown initiative, Project 20/20 has brought together a wide and diverse base of students and has garnered a great deal of support.

“It’s really raised more awareness than a lot of other efforts,” said Shane Easter ’10, one of the project’s originators. “It has benefits that appeal to a lot of different students.”

Project 20/20’s mix of environmental, humanitarian and economic goals make it more than just a green effort, said Libby Kimzey ‘09.5, the current project manager.

“It’s brought people into the fold who are not traditional environmentalists,” Kimzey said.

That includes Kimzey herself, an international relations concentrator who said she hadn’t been heavily involved in environmentalism before but now wants to work on energy issues after graduation.

This summer, Project 20/20 teamed up with Providence’s Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence, whose Beloved Community Summer Jobs program helps steer youth away from violence by finding them employment. Erik Duhaime ’10, internal coordinator, organized the hiring of eight workers through ISPN.

One of Project 20/20’s aims was also to help Brown reduce its carbon footprint. But because the process for certifying emissions reductions is cumbersome and expensive and the University is far exceeding its carbon reduction goals, the project’s leaders have decided to concentrate on communities outside of Brown.

The project will continue until it hits the 5,000-house mark and, perhaps, until it exhausts its surplus of compact fluorescent lamps, but it will soon come to a close, Kimzey said.
  
With the end of its flagship program, Kimzey said, the Community Carbon Use Reduction at Brown Initiative will direct $150,000 of its remaining funds to new projects this year.