The Vancouver School Board is committed to energy conservation and sustainability and has undertaken a number of programs and initiatives to this end. One such program was the 'Refrigerator Energy Conservation Pilot Program', which focused on the removal of older, inefficient and mostly unused refrigerators from schools. Originally, three Secondary Schools participated in the pilot program which began in the fall of 2010. Gladstone, John Oliver and Windermere Secondary were the first to participate and collectively they removed and recycled 25 refrigerators and freezers from their schools.
Sir Tupper Secondary was also eager to participate in this program as well, but decided to approach the project in a unique manner, by adding student initiative and industry innovation into the program. They asked students to engage with the energy audit process and that's where Melissa Chu and Michelle Tang stepped up and created their school science fair project with the refrigerator reduction program as their focus. Their resulting entry, "Frienemy: Is your fridge your friend or your enemy," explored energy usage in new and old refrigerators as well as solutions for reducing refrigerator energy consumption. The students also won a prize at the science fair for their work.
Melissa and Michelle were able to use an innovative device developed by EnerUse called the 'PlugMeter', which they obtained from Vancouver District's Manager for Energy & Climate Action, Kirthi Roberts. The 'PlugMeter', which is not yet available to the public, simply pugs into any outlet and measures how much electricity an appliance uses over a period of time. With the help of the 'PlugMeter' they were able to compare the energy used by older and newer refrigerators at their school. They discovered that older refrigerators used between 4-6 times more electricity compared to the newer EnergyStar Refrigerator.
As a result of their project Tupper Secondary retired, removed and recycled 9 outdated refrigerators, the most of any school involved in this pilot program and were able to upgrade a few older units to EnergyStar rated units. According to Kirthi Roberts, if most schools in this district followed the example of Gladstone, Windmere, John Oliver and Charles Tupper and eliminated the excess refrigerator capacity in their schools the energy saved would be sufficient to effectively remove 2-3 elementary schools off the BC Hydro electricity grid forever.
After their experience at the science fair the students made a presentation to school staff and challenged them to use the remaining refrigerators more efficiently and provided some easy and useful ideas for energy efficiency. In addition to their excellent scientific achievements, Melissa and Michelle were chosen to participate in a short documentary created by the World Wildlife Canada (WWC) to celebrate Earth Hour. The WWC video depicting the students' story and project can be viewed here: Video of Science Fair Project
To learn about the other three schools who participated in refrigerator reduction program, please visit a feature story about the program at this link: Refrigerator Recycle Program
All refrigerator units removed from the district have been recycled and decommissioned by a BC Hydro approved contractor in an environmentally responsible manner.