Nashoba Publishing/Anne O'Connor

Junior Liz Palmer of Pepperell was awarded a $1,000 grant from United Way Youth Venture to install energy efficient bulbs in local homes. She is part of the New Orleans Service Learning Group at North Middlesex Regional High School. Members of the group maintain this garden and donate the produce to local charities.

Nashoba Publishing/Anne O'Connor

Venture to install energy efficient bulbs in local homes. She is part of the New Orleans Service Learning Group at North Middlesex Regional High School. Ray Kane is the faculty adviser. Members of the group maintain this garden and donate the produce to local charities.

By Anne O'Connor

Correspondent

TOWNSEND -- Some households will be seeing their electricity use drop this year, thanks to an enterprising high school junior.

Volunteers with the Bright Lights Project plan to visit homes in the North Middlesex Regional School District and replace old incandescent and compact florescent bulbs with new, energy efficient light-emitting diode bulbs.

The cost to the homeowner? Nothing, it's free and the volunteers will even recycle the old bulbs for you.

Inspired by working with Green Light New Orleans, Liz Palmer of Pepperell set the wheels in motion locally. She and others in the New Orleans Service Learning Group worked with the nonprofit in February.


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The service learning group has gone to the city for several years to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Ideas they were exposed to translate well to north central Massachusetts, including using more environmentally friendly materials.

"Everything we do is going to be green," she said.

In addition to using even less energy than CFL bulbs, the LED lights burn at full strength as soon as they are switched on.

"Personally, I prefer LED," Palmer said.

The Bright Lights Project is starting out with $1,000 in seed money, a grant from the United Way Youth Venture in conjunction with Mount Wachusett Community College.

Beginning in March, four groups of students from the service learning group worked after school on applying for the grants. Each developed business plans, budgets and mission goals.

During the planning stage, Palmer connected with Andreas Hoffman, founder of the New Orleans group. He answered questions and supplied copies of the forms his group uses.

To complete the applications, North Middlesex students put together slide shows to present to a panel of school staff members and a representative of Youth Ventures.

"I did a fancy slide show," Palmer said. Using the Prezi site, she created an interactive and visually interesting presentation and it worked. Her project is a go.

All four of the applicants received a $1,000 grant through Youth Ventures, said faculty advisor Ray Kane. One group plans to purchase a stove for WHEAT Community Services in Clinton, another will support Habitat for Humanity and another will assemble reusable personal hygiene kits for women and girls in developing countries.

Some of the $1,000 awarded to Bright Lights is budgeted for fundraising. Palmer plans to sell reusable bags with the Bright Lights logo. Her supporters may run a green-a-thon, where sponsors pay so much per pound for roadside trash collected by volunteers. They also might hold a work auction.

Another part of the seed money will be used to purchase bulbs. Palmer has been shopping for the best deals and approaching retailers and Unitil for assistance. Some money is slated for organizational expenses.

Palmer is enthusiastic about the project and is migrating her family's home toward using LED bulbs.

The students have already replaced all the bulbs in one home. The goal is to complete 100 houses by late spring.

Palmer is using the web, social media and word of mouth to enlist volunteers and identify households wanting to replace lights. You can find information and contact links at brightlightsproject.weebly.com and at www.facebook.com/BrightLightsNorthMiddlesex