HARWICH ─ If the electric bill at Monomoy Regional High School has gotten lower recently, folks can thank Aidan Kotoski, a high school junior with a passion for saving energy in the hopes of helping the planet.
Through the Earth Club at MRHS, under the tutelage of advisor Sally Angiola and with a grant from the Harwich Garden Club, energy monitors were purchased and installed at several locations around the high school, overseen by the club's only members: Kotoski and Veronica Simundson.
Measured in kilowatts per hour, the monitors estimated the cost of using everyday items such as laptops, computers, home appliances, and more, as well how much carbon dioxide energy used by that one appliance was emitting into the atmosphere.
Monitors in the school library have allowed students, educators, and administrators to see firsthand what the school's energy use and impact was for certain devices.
“We've used them on different appliances,” said Kotoski. “The whole goal of this is to let people know how much electricity one item is using, and, either good or bad, they see the usage and know that if it's using too much, to turn it off.”
That's the biggest message Kotoski is hoping to send through the project, beginning with MRHS, where he hopes to encourage the staff to turn off computers at night in classrooms, offices, and the library to save energy and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
“Most of the computers aren't turned off,” Kotoski said. “They're put into sleep mode, which does save energy, but they're still using electricity. The monitors won't turn [the computers] off for you, but help get the message across. It's a slow process, but it is working.”
Kotoski said he's seen a greater effort toward making sure computers are shut down at the end of the day in the school's language lab, a number of classrooms, and the library. He's hoping that more will follow suit.
The decision to install the monitors at MRHS, Kotoski said, has a dual purpose. Not only will they alert those at the school about the overall energy use, but could also prompt students to talk about them at home, possibly leading to the purchase of home monitors that would help families not only save money, but also the planet.
Kotoski hopes that saving money will be an important incentive toward making changes.
“Every year at the school committee they present the budget plan,” said Kotoski. “Millions of dollars are put into electricity bills. I think this school could save a great amount and it would do a lot for everyone, taxpayers and people in the school.”
Kotoski credits former Harwich and now Monomoy Middle School science teacher Nancy Gifford for sparking his passion for energy conservation through her teaching, and through the Harwich Cares club at the Harwich Middle School.
“I never knew what climate change was, or energy efficiency or anything,” said Kotoski.
As part of his work with Harwich Cares, Kotoski joined the club in traveling to Washington, D.C. for the National Energy Education Development conference where Kotoski served as youth staff. He explained that schools across the country have energy and earth clubs, through which they create digital binders that track efforts to conserve energy. The efforts of the Harwich Cares club won them an award and a visit to Martha's Vineyard where Kotoski talked more with NEED – energy efficient building – facilitators and led to his interest in energy conservation.
“I was really interested in the whole concept of it, wanted to learn more about it and educate others about it,” he said. “A big message of NEED is 'Kids Teaching Kids' and I love to be a part of that.”
Kotoski said that nowadays, while energy conservation should be an important aspect of school curriculum, teachers are limited by time and other subject matter.
“It's not something that a lot of teachers can implement in their science classes,” he said, adding that's where the earth clubs and students like him come in.
Kotoski is hoping to donate two of the monitors to Brooks Library so the staff there can begin to better understand the library's use of electricity.
“I think they can learn from it and start to turn things off at night there, too,” Kotoski said.
Each monitor comes with an instruction booklet and signage that Kotoski said he hopes will lead to important conversations around energy saving.
While the prospect of paying closer attention to electricity use via today's modern technology can be daunting since there are so many devices in workplaces, schools, and homes, Kotoski said the solutions are simple: Turn off lights. Turn off computers. Turn off devices that don't need to stay on.
“You're helping to save the environment,” he said. “And your wallet.”