By Sarah Templeton, Editor-in-Chief
Go Green; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; Save the Planet. These slogans represent a shared sentiment among everyone who cares about the earth. Humans are using limited resources at an exponential rate, and the world cannot sustain this consumption indefinitely.
In an effort to combat one part of this global issue, senior Austin Smith is taking a stand to increase the use of renewable energy in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
“I am working with the district staff and Board of Education; together we form the Committee for Sustainable Schools,” Smith said. “Basically we are trying to transition the district to renewable energy- solar energy.”
Smith has been interested in environmental issues all his life. In his junior year, he took Explorations in Alternative Energies, a course offered at the Career Center.
“One day our teacher took us to the roof of Career Center to see the school’s solar panels,” Smith said. “I thought ‘if we can get eight, why can’t we get 100 or 200- enough to power the school?’”
Smith presented his idea at a Buildings and Grounds meeting, where WS/FCS Board Member David Singletary was present.
“I supported the idea and simply offered to be available to the Committee for Sustainable Schools as a School Board member and advocate,” Singletary said.
The meeting took place last March, and the team had their first real breakthrough in April. They met with the district staff, and began to expand the project. The ultimate goal: pass an energy policy making a long term commitment to 100 percent renewable energy.
Both Singletary and Smith are very optimistic about the outcome of the effort.
“I believe we will see a policy that supports the exploration of renewable energy options and implementation where it is economically feasible,” Singletary said. “We have an obligation to our students and community to be good stewards of our resources. It’s only sensible that we would look for opportunities to help us achieve those goals [and] I believe we all see renewable energy as an option.”
Smith shares the same views on the benefits of using solar energy as renewable power.
“I hope that I get to see the Career Center powered by 100 percent renewable energy by the end of my senior year,” Smith said. “I also hope to see a long term movement across the district, the city, the state, the nation and the world to renewable energy.”
Smith encourages students to get involved with the project and show support for a commitment to renewable energy.
“If you haven’t signed the petition already, which has over 1,000 signatures, make sure to do so,” Smith said. “There will be a copy of it in Dr. Findeis’ room.”
Singletary is confidant in the power of students to commit their support to solar energy.
“I believe the students, and their supporters, who have gathered to champion this movement toward renewable energy and sustainable schools are an excellent example of the quality of leaders we are seeing produced through RJR and our many other schools,” Singletary said. “If something were to happen and things were left to them, I believe they would soldier on and ultimately make us proud.”
If you are still hesitant to get behind the movement, Smith offers this sentiment, “People are scared to change the system because it works, but it could work better. People don’t see how much potential there is in renewable energy.”
Smith is presenting to the Board of Education on November 29 at 4:30 p.m. at 4801 Bethania Station Road. He encourages all students to come out and show their support.
Photos from Walt Unks/Winston-Salem Journal and provided by Austin Smith.