Land O’ Lakes students strive for ‘green’ community

For several years the Land O’ Lakes Branch Library has been plagued with massive energy consumption and a sizable electric bill.

A group of high schoolers is looking to change that.

The Land O’ Lakes High School Green Club, which addresses environmental issues in the community, wants to help the library achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) status — the most widely used ‘green’ building rating system in the world.

The Land O’ Lakes High School Green Club has started a fundraiser to help the Land O’ Lakes Branch Library to reach LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) status and significantly reduce its utility bill. Among the desired upgrades are UV window shading, LED lighting, motion sensing light switches, and programmable timers, to help decrease the library’s carbon footprint. From left: Green Club co-founder Sparsha Muralidhara, Green Club founder Camellia Moors and faculty club sponsor Michelle Starr. (Kevin Weiss)

To do so, the Green Club has partnered with Friends of the Pasco Library System on a fundraiser to purchase and install several energy-saving capital improvements to reduce the library’s carbon footprint.

The library’s annual electric bill is $48,500, according to a Duke Energy audit performed last year.

The goal is to eventually cut that figure in half.

Initial desired upgrades include UV window shading, LED lighting, motion sensing light switches, and programmable timers.

The Green Club has set a fundraising goal of $25,000 by May 1. As of Feb. 9, $220 has been raised. In addition to organizing a GoFundMe page, the club also plans to apply for local, state and federal grants.

If enough cash is raised, the group will then look to tackle more expensive tasks such as air-conditioning upgrades, solar panels and added insulation at the library.

Duke Energy recommended many of those upgrades in its audit as a measure to improve the overall efficiency of the facility and decrease overall energy consumption.

County funds cover the library’s maintenance each year. However, there’s been little in the way of large-scale improvements to save on electricity since it opened on Collier Parkway in 1999.

Green Club founder and senior IB (International Baccalaureate) student Camellia Moors is the driving force behind the library energy-savings initiative.

She created the student organization during her junior year believing there wasn’t strong enough awareness on pressing environmental issues — including climate change and conservation — at the school or community level.

Moors decided a high-trafficked, public space — such as the Land O’ Lakes Branch Library — was the best place to start.

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) status is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. According to the United States Green Building Council, LEED ‘provides a framework to create healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings.’ (Courtesy of the United States Green Building Council)

“I figured that if you were going to do some sort of environmental change where you wanted people to see the change, you need to do it where they’re going to see it,” Moors said.

A longtime patron of the library, Moors correctly guessed it had a sizable electricity bill after noticing its fluorescent lights, untinted windows and outdated air conditioning system. “If you walk in the library, it’s pretty evident…they’re constantly running and having a huge energy consumption rate,” Moors said.

The Green Club, which has a handful of active members, has facilitated other activities, including recycling drives and environment-based educational classes. They’ve also planted a garden in front of the high school’s Academy of Culinary Arts building.

Green Club co-founder and member Sparsha Muralidhara said every little bit helps when it comes to preserving the environment.

“Change doesn’t have to be a national sweeping movement in one go. You can start in your own backyard and then work it up to your neighbors, and then your communities and from there,” she said.

Muralidhara’s passion for environmentalism harkens back to her family’s Indian roots and learning about rapid urbanization of the South Asian country. “Seeing a lot of our own natural parks and everything torn down to make way for urban blight and development was always disheartening,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Land O’ Lakes Branch Library ‘greening’ project was embraced by library officials from the start, said Bob Harrison, public communications specialist for the Pasco County libraries, adding he’s been impressed by Moors’ activism and involvement.

“Anything that we can come up with obviously to reduce not only our carbon footprint but also to get that electric bill down is a win-win for everybody. We try to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money, and if we can cut expenses on something like a giant utility bill then we’re definitely all for that,” Harrison said.

If the fundraiser’s successful, Land O’ Lakes would become the first Pasco branch library to earn LEED status. The county may also explore energy-saving upgrades to its six other branches, Harrison said.

Moors hopes the project will inspire other environmentalists at the grassroots level.

“It’s up to everybody who does have some basic awareness of the environment — and knows the importance of the environment — to continue that and stretch it out further and actually apply that knowledge more,” Moors said.

Want to help?
To donate, visit information on the club, email moc.l1553636213iamg@1553636213bulcn1553636213eergs1553636213hlol1553636213.

Published February 14, 2018

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