LEAP Energy Fair Showcases All That's 'Green'

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Anthony Edwards / Staff Photo Mark Boivin, of Vermont Golden Harvest Biofuels in Addison, explains how corn is used as a valuable energy source during the 8th LEAP Energy Fair at Crossett Brook Middle School in Duxbury on Saturday.

DUXBURY — A towering pile of old televisions, juxtaposed against a sprawling background of solar panels, is an image that perfectly encapsulated the eighth annual LEAP Fair. 

The event, held Saturday at Crosset Brook Middle School, drew hundreds of people, from experts pitching biodiesel and solar-powered hot water systems to visitors who were a bit “green” about energy efficiency. 

Duncan McDougall is chairman of the Waterbury Local Energy Action Partnership (LEAP), a nonprofit town energy committee whose goal is to make Waterbury the greenest town in Vermont by 2020. 

“This is one of our most important activities, which is bringing together hundreds of individuals, families, business people and local leaders who want to do the right thing with regard to renewable energy, energy efficiency, or transportation-related issues but just don’t have the information, the resources and don’t have access to the experts,” McDougall said. 

“We bring in all of the experts,who can answer their questions, can show them hands-on exhibits, who can get them what they need and people will leave and say, ‘I finally know what I need to do.’” 

The event drew a visit from Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., who praised the spirit of both conservation and entrepreneurship at the fair. 

“Leadership comes from the local level, and Waterbury is one of the leading communities in Vermont,” Welch said of a town that has quadrupled its solar-generating capacity during the last two years. 

“We have young people and local people who are taking on the challenge of improving our environment,” he said. “But they understand you can create really good jobs by taking on climate change. There is a link between taking on our responsibility to create a cleaner environment and our opportunity to create a stronger economy.” 

In addition to solar and biodiesel energy systems, vendors offered tips and brochures on wood-fired boilers, clotheslines, insulation and energy-efficient lighting. 

Throughout the day, visitors could attend lectures and discussions on carpooling, heat pumps and electric vehicles. 

When Welch referred to young people getting involved in energy conservation, he wasn’t just referring to people in their 20s and 30s, but also their teens and even younger. 

Crosset Brook Middle School is in its first year of having a sustainability program, and the message is echoing throughout their class work.

Anson Smith and Sam Lord are both 12 years old and attend sixth grade at Crosset Brook. During the fair, they displayed results from a class project in which they made vermicompost using worms, shredded newspaper and food scraps, all kept in a plastic container in the classroom.

They grew two batches of the herb thyme — one with the vermicompost and the other without. The plant with the vermicompost was clearly thriving more than the one without. 

“This compost has five times the nitrogen and seven times the potassium as regular soil, and that really helps the plants grow healthier and stronger,” Lord said. 

Outside the gymnasium that housed the fair, a steady stream of vehicles lined up to drop off their “e-waste” — old televisions, computer monitors and printers that were stacked high on pallets and loaded into a truck. 

The collection effort was a project undertaken by Crosset Brook’s eighth-graders, who spent the last four weeks learning about electronic waste. 

“There are a lot of renewable resources, like gold and silver, and things like mercury that you don’t want to end up in the ground,” said 13-year-old Liliana Castro. 

Looking at outdated and inefficient technology components, piled in front of one of the largest solar arrays on a school campus in the state, sustainability teacher Sarah Popowicz said the event helped her students to put into practice what they’ve been learning in the classroom. 

“To research something in the classroom is one thing, but to see the reality of this really opened up their eyes,” Popowicz said. 

For more information, visit www.waterburyleap.org.