BY ALEXANDER HAJJAR

The battle to conserve energy took a step forward when El Puente’s Green Light District hosted the Community Environmental Center’s (CEC) EcoHouse and flicked on its energy efficient lights on Friday, November 16.

The EcoHouse—located at 183 South Third Street—is a free, travelling, energy efficient, interactive learning center lined with state-of-the-art displays aimed at educating students and residents about conserving energy and waging a war against climate change.

The house is complete with a kitchen, bathroom and a living room, all stocked with energy-conserving appliances.

El Puente, a 30-year-old community organization in Williamsburg, is hopeful that it will inspire students and local residents to conserve energy in the future. “We all pay energy bills: The more energy we save, the lower our bills are,” said Esteban Duran, a community organizer for El Puente.

Others agree that the Learning Center has a lot to teach the community. “This exhibit will educate students on the importance of energy efficiency by reducing [their] energy consumption,” explained Malcolm Sanbourn-Hum, public relations director for Councilmember Diana Reyna.

Local residents concurred. “I’m excited for it,” said Nancy Giacomazzi. “It’s about time this community started learning about that stuff. The sooner they learn, the sooner we can move toward a better future for our neighborhood and the less we’ll have to pay for electricity.”

The district’s unveiling of the EcoHouse was the end product of a collaborative effort with the Community Environmental Center (CEC) and Middle School 50 to introduce the importance of sustainability to local residents and students. “Since the EcoHouse went on the road at the end of September, 2,140 people have toured the EcoHouse, 1521 of them public school attendees from first through ninth grade,” explained Alexis Greene, public relations director of CEC. “The rest of the people were from the general public.”

The CEC’s traveling EcoHouse has met with a supportive response from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). “They have asked us to partner with NYSERDA-funded Community Based Organizations (CBO),” Greene affirmed. “El Puente is one of those CBOs, and El Puente arranged for us to take the EcoHouse to MS 50.”

Since then, the collaboration between El Puente and the CEC has proven fruitful. “We have loved working with El Puente, and the students who have toured from MS 50 and other local schools have been simply terrific,” said Erin Congdon, EcoHouse project director. “It’s a real joy to watch how these kids get into the energy-efficiency displays, especially the one about CFL lights. This is a real 21st-century classroom.”