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'Lights Out!'

By Ronan Swift, St. Columba's College, Dublin 16

St. Columba's is a seven day boarding and six day teaching co-educational school in the Dublin hills. With up to 80% of the pupil body comprised of boarders it is surprisingly easy for them to forget the outside world and tune out from current affairs and their citizenship of the wider world altogether. Being a small, self contained community of around three hundred people (pupils and residential staff and their families) does however engender other positives such as a sense of 'togetherness' sometime lacking in our wider society.

Form III c's action project idea was a simple one and was interesting as it sought to capture the imagination of the whole school. The main body of the project invited the school to enter a competition to design a striking image (text was allowed, as were designs created on computer) that would encourage all members of the college community to turn off the lights in their classroom, dormitory, accommodation, office or study when not needed. The winning entry would be reduced to a credit-card sized 'badge' and affixed to the wall at every light switch on the campus.

Clearly this project falls under the concept of Stewardship. There were many meaty jobs for the group to complete. Firstly a delegation arranged to meet with the college Bursar (who pays the electricity bill!) to ask for her approval but also for any statistics on current energy expenditure in the school. These boys established a striking statistic: that during the winter months of November to February the college spends a staggering 35 an hour on electricity. This is all the more note worthy since the school is heated by gas and so the majority of that figure must have been spent on lighting.

Another group wrote to the Chaplain asking for a slot during our daily chapel service to introduce the competition to everyone. Then three brave souls did just that to a positive reception. This involved further research on global energy issues too. A committee was appointed with the task of selecting a judging panel which ended up including the Head of Art, the Bursar herself and the current holder of the senior art prize. The tuck shop offered 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes in the form of gift vouchers as the competition prizes.

Even when a winner was selected there was further work to be done. One group was given to task of pricing different print jobs and perhaps more humdrum but vital was the job of simply counting how many light switches the school has.

This action project is in fact ongoing at the time of writing. Whether or not the Junior Cert. candidates will be allowed to play some part in assisting the maintenance crew in fixing the badges to the walls has not yet been discussed. I hope that they get this opportunity as well.

The really interesting aspect will surely come further into the future when these enthusiastic pupils might return to the Bursar's office to find a reduced electricity bill (and carbon footprint) as a result of their actions.