February 24, 2003

Stewardship and the Environment
Saving Energy in Your Home

The meeting was attended by 17 members, 2 friends and 10 guests.

Business of the Institute

Gerri Schwartz announced that Institute member, Michael Dunn, was the recipient of the Queen's 50th Year Jubilee Medal in 2002 for distinguished leadership in wildlife services. Our congratulations to Michael on his well-deserved award.

Michael reported on significant progress in the Gulf Islands Centre for Ecological Learning (GICEL) in which the Institute is a collaborative partner. The Gulf Islands School District has endorsed the concept though GICEL is being set up as a separate body with its own Board of Directors. Partnerships have been established with the Saanich Native Heritage Society on Mayne Island and with the Hope Bay Camp on Pender Island. On Saltspring Island 100 acres of land have been acquired from Texada Land Corporation of which 10 acres will be used exclusively by GICEL. A financial donation is also expected. GICEL's immediate task is to raise $150,000. Summer programs in experiential nature-based learning are being planned for the summer of 2003 on Mayne, Pender and Saltspring Islands.

Bill Borgen (Youth and Education) reported that the UBC Faculty of Education is now working proactively to establish research and teaching components for the program in Values-Based Education, which the Institute is promoting with New Westminster School District.

Diane Jennings reported that the Spirituality and Personal Development sector is continuing with its program on Nurture for Leaders.

Maggie Gold announced that the Health and Wellness Sector is planning a meeting on “Making Wise Health Choices” for March 24, 2003.

Desmond Berghofer (Business and Sustainability) reported that following last month's meeting on Ethical Competence a follow-up meeting has been held with senior staff at the Fraser Basin Council who showed considerable interest. A further meeting has been confirmed with senior management at VanCity Savings. Desmond also said that they are setting up another general meeting to present the Ethical Competence Framework to invited guests and asked for suggestions of who should be invited.

Jim Haliburton (Stewardship and the Environment) shared news clippings from the North Shore News reporting the continuing success of the North Shore Schools recycling program. He also reported that the Eco Home Project is on track to work with a further 25 homes this summer. The Neighbourscape Program has now been accepted as a project of North Shore Recycling.


As chair of the Stewardship and Environment sector, Jim Haliburton introduced the program, referring to his conviction that children are the future and need to be given the right tools and skills to become stewards of the environment. Tonight's presentation by the team from Virescens is an example of personal initiative to bring engaging environmental education to children in schools.


Ken Martin, President of Virescens, said that the proper title for tonight's program was “Saving Energy through Our Children” because what children learn in school can be taken home to effect energy savings in the home. To do this Virescens has created a program called “Passion for Action,” which has been introduced to three schools as a pilot project for wider implementation.

Ken then introduced his son Travis, who made the following presentation:

“Hi, my name is Travis Martin.

Almost exactly one year ago this month something happened that made a big impact on my life, and my family's life. Kristen Cassie, my teacher last year asked me if I would be interested in applying to go to a United Nations conference. I didn't even know what the United Nations was then. That suggestion led to lots of changes.

I am in Grade 8 right now. When I was in Grade 7 I was going to a Montessori school called Roots and Wings. My teacher, Kristin Cassie, told us about the United Nations Children's Conference on the Environment and that they were accepting applications. To get accepted I had to write a 350-word essay on why I wanted to go and what I had been doing to help the environment. My other teacher, Janet Cundall, talked me into doing the essay in two days, which I had never even come close to doing before. A couple of days later Janet and I went to Victoria to drop the application off at the conference headquarters. After waiting for two months I finally heard I was in! I was overjoyed. I ran around the block two times because I was so excited.

I also had to find a corporate sponsor to sponsor me. I wrote to Firoz Razul, the President of Ballard Power, and Paul Lee, the President of Electronic Arts, asking if they would sponsor me and cover the cost of the $325 conference fee. Mr. Lee called me within three days and said that they would sponsor for me for $325, which was the full cost. I never did hear back from Ballard Power. I tell this story a lot. I think Electronic Arts got really good benefit from their $325 because I tell this story to many people. Make sure you buy your kids Electronic Arts computer games.

Before I decided to go to the conference my class and I had do a fundraiser to go to Alaska. The idea was organic fertilizer. It sold very well in our environmentally directed school. If you were here last year at this session, you may remember us talking about and selling our fertilizer. We made $75 that one night. Thank you. How we made the fertilizer is not top secret. We made it out of alpha meal, green sand, rock phosphate and dolomite lime.

The Conference was held at the University of Victoria. It was five days long; 800 children from 80 different countries came to share their concerns on the environment. We all stayed in the university dormitories. The United Nations Children's Conference people say the conference was a huge success. All of the people there were nice and helpful. I made a lot of friends. The conference was neat because so many people took part in it. We had good food in the cafeteria. They brought in some good entertainers. Raffi sang for us. An eco-van showed us how to save energy.

There were over 50 workshops and fieldtrips. Therefore, you had a choice on what you wanted to do. I did Oily Oceans. We talked about oil tankers sinking and leaking oil, how they cleaned it up, and how to clean a feather. I also went to the Hartland Landfill. We took a bus there and looked at ways of reducing our trash output. The next day I went to the Kid's Sun Awareness workshop. We talked about how you can protect yourself from the sun. The next day I went to the Garbage Art Workshop. Some people got a whole bunch of garbage from the beach and tuned it into art. It was fun because you could make what you want and you don't have to be good at art.

This is where the change part really starts…

When I got back from the conference I become a real nag around the house. I told my dad that I would mow the lawn with a push lawn mower instead of our polluting gas lawn mower. I started turning off all the lights in our house that we usually left on. I talked my mom and dad into buying energy efficient light bulbs. I nagged my dad so much about our big SUV that we had to sell it and buy a more efficient minivan. I started reading our electrical and gas meter to see how much energy I could save. Our electrical and gas bills are more then 25% lower now then they were last year at this time.

My dad and teachers were so impressed by what I learned and how I started to improve the environment around our house that he decided to design an education program that would make kids more aware of the environment, just like the conference had done to me. He started a new company called Virescens. With his two partners they designed an Energy Efficiency Awareness Program or EEAP for short. The EEAP program is designed to teach elementary and high school kids to conserve energy in the household. I have been helping him test the course and run it in my old elementary school and in the Montessori school I had attended. So far the kids in the school really like it. We have challenged them to see if they can reduce their energy consumption at home by the same amount as I have.

My dad will now tell you more about the EEAP program. I will be helping you later at one of the tables.”

Ken explained that his career had been in high technology, which provided a good living and a fancy office, but left him with a hollow feeling. Under urging from Travis he founded Virescens (Latin for “turning green”) with two partners Randy Yeung and Ulrich Schrems (both present in the room), who had similar successful high-tech careers as Ken. Their motto became “Moving from Success to Significance."

Ken showed graphs recording the energy savings he and his family have achieved in his household (25%). This fits with Canada's objective under the Kyoto Protocol of saving 20% of green house gas emissions in households. The main strategy the Martin household has used is to lower the heat, put timers on the thermostats and reduce the use of the dishwasher and clothes dryer.

Ken then described the 8-week program they have designed for schools at the Grade 6-7 level called “Passion for Action.” Its intent is to create lasting behaviour change by engaging the passion of students to become stewards of energy consumption in their homes.

Randy Young then took the audience through an exercise of judging the priority order of devices and appliances around the home in terms of their energy consumption. He then introduced the audience to the EEAP Boards, which they have designed as teaching devices. Using these boards people at the tables could discover for themselves what the energy consumption is for the various devices and appliances. It was a highly engaging and informative exercise.


The audience then addressed three questions in discussion groups and provided the following ideas as feed-back:

Question 1: How do you sustain the passion in students for environmental education?

1. Get recognition for the children's efforts from well-known people.
2. Create a Youth Environmental Fair.
3. Return the savings from reduced energy consumption to the children themselves.
4. Create certificates of recognition.
5. Establish in-school and inter-school challenges and competitions.
6. Design new competitive games around reducing energy consumption, especially computer games.
7. Give performance rewards.
8. Set goals for tracking the changes and provide benefits for improvement to the children.
9. Get parents involved from the start.
10. Provide continuous feedback and reporting.
11. Create a profit-sharing plan for savings from reduced energy consumption with 1/3 going to charity, 1/3 to savings and 1/3 to the children themselves.
12. Recognize the children as experts in saving energy.
13. Graph the vision for reduced energy consumption.
14. Adopt a theme for the school like “Befriend the Planet.”
15. Hold environmental assemblies.
16. Encourage children to create dramas with Mother Earth as the central character (victim and heroine).
17. Use peer teaching of younger children by older children on how to save energy.
18. Give a class in the school responsibility for a month to effect some environmental change in the school.

Question 2: Is this program worthwhile to bring to market? How?

1. Get sponsorship and endorsement from Power Smart, government and energy efficient manufacturers.
2. Create a CD ROM of the program for distribution.
3. Advertise in the “Green Teacher” magazine.
4. Link sponsorship to the Kyoto Protocol.
5. Create a Board Game for energy conservation.

Question 3: How do you maximize the adoption of environmental awareness in the community?

1. Go school by school and house by house (word of mouth).
2. Get support from elected officials.
3. Bank credits and sell them to other communities, then use the money to do more saving.
4. Use cultural consultants to get multicultural involvement in multiple languages.
5. Get the media involved to report the good news.
6. Use the community TV channel for exposure.
7. Get the program established as part of the school curriculum.
8. Take the energy auditing process into places where children go, like McDonalds, Subway, etc.
9. Create Environmental Block Watch programs.
10. Follow the lead of the anti-drunk-driving movement and use children to create powerful television commercials to “Save the Earth.”


Jim Haliburton thanked the audience for an excellent list of powerful ideas and expressed our appreciation to the Virescens team for a stimulating and informative program.

Gerri Schwartz closed the meeting by inviting those who had come as guests to consider returning first as Friends of the Institute, then as members to lend their support to spreading the work of the Institute.

Next Meeting

March 24, 2003: 5.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m., Vancouver Public Library
Theme: Health and Wellness
Topic: Making Wise Health Choices