Written by Sophie Revis, Green Corps Leader, Millcreek Alliance (partner of the Cincinnati Zoo’s Light Up Avondale Program)
My experience with Light Up Avondale has been transformative. To begin, I did not know that the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden was giving back to the Avondale community as much as it does. I think it is great to see an institution work and care about its community, something that seems so scarce today. When I started working on this project, I didn’t really know what I was getting in to. My work as a Green Corps Member with the Millcreek Alliance has been predominantly habitat restoration, invasive species removal, plant propagation, tree planting, composting, and trail work. This Light Up Avondale project and LED installation was something brand new for us. I was excited to start helping the city and the Avondale neighborhood save energy and burn less coal. As an environmental studies student at University of Cincinnati, I see this as an urgent goal to achieve.
When studying these concepts, it is easy to think on a large-scale– ‘how could we solve climate change as a nation, and what’s keeping that from happening?’ Thinking on a macro-level, it’s easy to fall prey to feeling helpless. Thankfully, my work with Light Up Avondale has shown me the importance of the small-scale solutions. Every individual light bulb reduces energy use by a few watts, which seems negligible. But, my team and I have changed hundreds and hundreds of light bulbs. Even though the change looks small, it is adding up to a greater impact. In addition to the environmental benefits to upgrading to LED, there are a lot of financial benefits too. Each residence that is upgraded to 100% LED bulbs can save anywhere from $200-$400 a year on their energy bill. Those are real dollars that can go towards food, medicine, school supplies, and other expenses. In addition, myself and the rest of the Green Corps are learning more and more about energy efficiency, types of lamps, temperature and color of lighting, and so much more than I thought I’d ever know about lighting. We also must track a lot of data, and input it into spreadsheets.
Light Up Avondale has allowed me to meet people in a way I never have before. Before an installation, I usually connect to the scheduled resident by phone before I meet them. And then myself and my team show up at their house to do a walk through, collect data, and then change out their bulbs. This is probably what has surprised me most. I was expecting more suspicion and caution from the residents we have worked with, but we rarely encounter that. Everyone has been welcoming, kind, and generous. On multiple occasions, we have been offered food and clothes. And everyone has been so gracious and thankful that we would do this work for them and give them something that can help change their life. A Light Up Avondale residential installation is inherently intimate – someone lets a bunch of strangers into every part of their home. We see a snapshot of a household’s daily life. It’s these moments and conversations that have had the greatest effect on me.