CLASS TO ILLUMINATE SOUTH SIDE HOMES WITH ENERGY-SAVING BULBS

If you could spend $1,250 to erase your carbon footprint, what would you buy? Trees? A bicycle? Carbon offsets?

The Fall 2008 "Climate Crises: Past, Present, and Future" class chose to spend their $1,250 budget on a combination of carbon-saving strategies that include a "Turn Off the Lights" campaign; planting native trees; and installing an 80 square-foot "green roof " of living plants on Collier Hall.

The project that promises to have the greatest impact is the installation of 120 CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs in the homes of five families who live on the South Side of Bethlehem. Installing the 60-watt-equivalent bulbs will not only offset half of the class's total carbon footprint, but also will save each family $900 compared to the cost of using incandescent bulbs to provide the same 8,000 hours of light. When the students visit the families to install the bulbs next semester, they'll explain how the small, extra initial cost of CFLs and other alternative energy sources can save them money and help the environment over the long-term.

 
At the PennFuture conference in November, students met with James Hansen, the United States' leading climatologist. Hansen advocated the need for increased classroom education about social responsibility and environmental issues, especially for children.

The interdisciplinary "Climate Crises" class was co-designed and is co-taught by Hilde Binford, assistant professor of music, and Diane Husic, chair and professor of biology. The fall semester class was the second time the class was offered, allowing students of all majors to learn about climate change and how to combat it. Over the last few months, the class attended the PennFuture Conference; analyzed the environmental impact and sustainability efforts of businesses, such as GE, Coca-Cola, and Nike; and expressed themselves creatively, with projects that included an original rap song, a children's book, and photography.

"Before I took this class, I considered myself pretty educated on environmental issues," said Steven Inghram, a music major. "But through this course I also learned the skeptics' point of view. The more informed citizens are, the more the opportunity to create change—not only in our personal lives, but also in the grand scheme of things."