Students green up their act

Sci ’44 Co-op housing switches to low-impact renewable energy

Sci ’44 Co-op General Manager Brent Bellamy says the 20 houses owned by Sci ’44 co-op are currently undergoing a $120,000 retrofit.
Sci ’44 Co-op General Manager Brent Bellamy says the 20 houses owned by Sci ’44 co-op are currently undergoing a $120,000 retrofit.

The 160 residents of Sci ’44 Co-op housing are stretching their pockets to shrink their carbon footprint.

The organization decided last spring to switch their 20 houses to low-impact hydro supplied by Bullfrog Power.

Bullfrog Power uses a mixture of clean, emissions-free wind and water power. This green energy supply is injected to the Ontario grid to match the total amount of power used by its subscribers.

The motion to support this renewable energy project was passed at Sci ‘44’s general meeting in April, where a majority voted for an extra $65 fee in addition to their yearly membership fee of $3800. The change was officially implemented on Aug. 1.

Eight out of the group’s 20 houses are currently in the process of being environmentally retrofitted at a total cost of $120,000. This is in adherence to the standards set by the EcoEnergy program, an environmental grant given out by the Federal and Provincial governments to homeowners who have made changes to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

Sci ’44 Co-op general manager Brent Bellamy said this move is just one example of the many recent environmental initiatives which the co-op has executed.

“A lot of things that we apply can be used by any student, such as speaking to their landlord about low-flow toilets, buying florescent and LED light bulbs and pestering their landlord for efficiencies,” he said.

These energy-saving efficiencies include using double-paned argon-filled insulating windows to reduce heat loss and the replacement of old showerheads and faucets by new ones which use less water per minute.

“We’ve gone from using 10 million litres of water a year to 6.5 million litres [per year] over the past five years,” Bellamy said.

The co-op has increased the frequency of house inspections to twice a year in order to check for issues such as leaky faucets and cracked windows, which can counteract the environmentally measures in which the co-op has put into place.

“The co-op’s yearly utility costs have decreased $75, 000 from $185, 000 a year to $110, 000 over the past five years,” Bellamy said.

Despite the financial incentives associated with energy reduction, Bellamy said the group’s decision to increase their annual fee shows that Sci ’44 co-op residents are seeing energy reduction as more than just a money saving strategy.

“In the past, there’s been both a financial benefit and a green benefit to our initiatives,” he said. “For the first time, they’ve had to pay more to reduce emissions and decrease their carbon footprint.”

Lise Hamilton, ArtSci ’09, has been living in a ‘Sci ’44 co-op house for the past three years. Hamilton said the group’s partnership with Bullfrog power coincides with the philosophy of the many of the residents of the group.

“It seemed like a good first step. It fits in with what we do here,” she said. “A population that the co-op attracts are people who are concerned and do want to do things as far as social activism is concerned. We have people who want to take a stand and initiate positive action.”

Hamilton is supportive of paying the additional fee, assuming that the project lives up to the hype.

“Hopefully it does what it says it does. Sixty-five dollars seems like a small price to pay, so it’s definitely worth a try.”

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