Students of the Govardhana Academy in Saranagati, an off-the-grid Krishna conscious village in B.C., Canada, have topped the B.C. Green Games winners’ lists in both the secondary and elementary school categories this year.
The Green Games are run by Science World, a Vancouver center that promotes science education. To enter, students had to create and submit a photo essay, video project or website that showed an environmental action project their school had undertaken.
While other city-based schools’ gardening, composting or recycling programs presented thoughtful ways to be more green while living a conventional urban life, Govardhana Academy students wrote and produced a video that showed how their entire school is run with completely green technologies out of necessity in their off-the-grid community.
Secondary students install solar panels
Originally established by ISKCON devotees in the 1990s, Govardhana Academy was purchased by the government and operated as a public school from 1999 until 2009, with children from outside the Saranagati community also attending.
During this time, the school operated on a budget of $200,000 a year, with a large generator running throughout the day to provide electricity, and propane furnaces heating the building.
But in 2009, when the government cut rural schools out of their program, the small Saranagati community of just nine families was left to carry Govardhana Academy on its shoulders, and was forced to cut 90% of the budget.
Showing full power derived from microhydro turbine and solar panels
It was just at this moment that second generation devotees Kartamasa Delaney and his wife Radha Kunda moved to Saranagati from Alachua, Florida. They now run Govardhana Academy as a homeschool co-op, educating fifteen students aged 4 to 16 through a distance learning program and acting as supervising tutors.
“We just couldn’t afford to generate power the way they did when it was a public school,” Kartamasa says. “It would have cost $100,000 a year just to be warm with lights on. So we had to change the Academy from a typical city type school to something extremely efficient, environmentally and economically.”
As Govardhan Academy’s secondary students describe in their Green Games-winning video, over the years from 2009 to 2014, they transformed their school dramatically. They replaced the propane furnaces with two wood stoves. They replaced their lighting with energy efficient CFL lights and lots of windows for natural light. They replaced their expensive generator with solar panels and a battery bank for power.
Secondary students in their classroom, now with 450 watts of continuous power
And just last year, they installed a microhydro system with a simple turbine that is spun by water from a small creek near their school, to create 450 watts of continuous power.
“We’re forever green now,” the students say in their video. “No utility bills, no ecological footprint, and no wasting money.”
They also include a PDF in their presentation for more information, and invite those who have never even thought about it to try microhydro power, explaining that you don’t need a mountain creek – “you can get power right from your kitchen sink.”
Elementary students load bottles to drop off at the recycling depot
Govardhana Academy’s elementary students also won their category in the Green Games with their video about their “Bottles to Trees” project.
“We started a bottle refund at the beginning of this year to fundraise for a playground,” says Kartamasa. “Members of the community drop off their refundable bottles, and we take them in to the local bottle depot in town and get refunded for them – five cents, ten cents apiece. And we’ve been making steady money that way. But then we decided another good use of the money would be to plant fruit trees. So we planted an apple, a cherry and an apricot tree in our yard, and the students learned about how to care for them.”
“They learned how easy it is to clean up and give back to the earth, one bottle at a time!” reads the description of their presentation at bcgreengames.ca.
Students are delighted with their recycled bottle refunds
For their efforts, the elementary and secondary students will win $1,000 each; and the secondary students will receive the B.C. Hydro Energy Prize of an additional $1,000, as well as $500 for getting the most votes –14,000 – and winning the Viewer’s Choice Award.
They’ll also get travel subsidies for a trip to Science World in Vancouver, and free admission into the center, where they will be presented with certificates and their prizes at an event sometime during the month after Earth Day on April 22nd.
With the financial prizes, they’ll be able to add on to money already saved through their bottle depot program and bake sales to finally get their playground.
Elementary students plant trees with their bottle depot money
It’s the second such contest that Govardhana Academy students have entered and won, after the B.C. Hydro Energy Contest in 2011. For them, living simply and efficiently is second nature. With years off the grid and minimal power sources, they’re used to being extremely conscious of things like how much water they use, or how long they leave the lights on.
And to Kartamasa, that connects directly to their strong Krishna conscious curriculum – which includes a morning program every day, discussing the meaning of songs and verses, one round of japa, learning kirtan instruments, and even organizing Saranagati’s spiritual festivals.
“Being Krishna conscious,” he says, “Starts with being conscious.”
Students outside their colorfully painted school
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See the Elementary entry here: http://www.bcgreengames.ca/project/bottles-trees135
And the Secondary entry here: http://www.bcgreengames.ca/entityform/99?token=c408789b7de089cc900e0bbd716d89f5&id=99
Visit Govardhana Academy’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GovardhanaAcademy?fref=ts[ british-columbia ] [ canada ] [ green-energy ] [ saranagati-farm ] [ sustainability ]