KCC students lighting project saves school thousands of dollars in energy costs

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — As officers of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, Allison Anthony and Katie Earl said they wanted to carry on the organization’s mission of making Kellogg Community College eco-friendly. Last year’s group placed recycling bins all around campus. This year, they came up with a lighting project that saved the school over $7,000 in energy costs.

“We kind of came to the conclusion that the library kind of needed a facelift,” Anthony said during an interview at the library.

Early in the school year all six officers decided to swap out all the old fluorescent light bulbs and install new environmentally-friendly LEDs in the library, she said. It was the best building to implement their project because students used it daily.

“The amount of hours that the lights are on, it’s like what 12-to-15 hours a day,” said Earl about the lights in the library. “I feel like that’s a lot of time that we should have eco-friendly bulbs.”

Earl said during the fall, the group began meeting together for a few hours a week outside of class time and their various work schedules.

“They were self-motivated,” said Drew Hutchinson, manager of student life at KCC. “The rest of us only had to guide them and they really took the ball and ran with it.”

When they got together, they’d discuss the financials and quickly learned that their project would cost $16,000 to complete, they said. So they started writing grants, requesting funds to help with their project.

“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” Anthony said.  “I’ve never written a grant before. I wasn’t sure that we were going to get everything that we wanted or part of that or even nothing.”

But they did. The KCC Foundation donated $5,000 to their project and the Mary Morris Fund matched that number, the school said in a press release. The rest came from Consumer’s Energy in rebates.

“When we finally did get the money for the grant, it was like a really good feeling,” Anthony said. “I was just like ‘Wow,  this is one step closer to getting our goals done.’”

By mid-spring Dayton Buhs, the school’s electrician, was already swapping out the bulbs. He said the new lights are cutting their energy costs in half, saving the school $7,300.

“We were going to have to re-lamp the whole building anyways,” he said. “The next time we have to change the light bulb, all we do is change the lightbulb.”

He also said that LEDs were better for students when they study. Fluorescent lights tend to flicker which can cause headaches. However, LEDs don’t.

“Having I think brighter lights helps people focus and be more attentive with their working,” Earl said.

Both Earl and Anthony recently graduated from KCC. They said the skills and experience they'll carry  into their college careers elsewhere.

“I take into account what I do and how to make things more green, just how to better like eco-system,” said Earl, who’s heading to Western Michigan University in the fall.

Anthony chose to stay local and attend Siena Heights University’s campus in Battle Creek. She plans to study business administration but hopes that next year's PTK group will continue to make the campus green.

“I love volunteering and I love helping people,” she said. “So I mean that's another something I got out of it. Just knowing that I can always come back here and [say] ‘oh I helped do this.’ It’s just really cool."

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