An energetic mission

Columbia residents bond over lessons from another college town on how to reduce their reliance on non-renewable energy resources
Sunday, October 1, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:29 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

On Saturday afternoon, the Unity Center of Columbia was filled with talk about how to make Columbia’s energy future a little bit brighter.

“We don’t know the answer at the moment as to what our energy future is going to look like,” said Dave Konkle, the energy coordinator for the city of Ann Arbor, Mich. “Where will your children get their energy? That’s the question.”

Konkle was the keynote speaker at the fourth annual Sustainable Living Fair sponsored by Mid-Missouri Peaceworks’ Center for Sustainable Living and the Columbia Earth Day Coalition. He talked about ways communities and local governments can reduce their energy emissions in response to the rising demand for oil.

Fair organizers invited Konkle to speak because of his success in decreasing Ann Arbor’s emissions. Greg Baka, from the Center for Sustainable Living, emphasized the similarities between Ann Arbor and Columbia — both are college towns with comparable populations.

During his address, Konkle explained how Ann Arbor has used renewable fuels in city vehicles, installed more efficient streetlights and improved access to public transportation.

Mark Haim, the director of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, said the goal of the fair is to promote awareness and sustainable choices by all members of the community.

“We live in a time that presents unique challenges, as we approach peak oil and global climate change,” Haim said. “It’s clear that we need to really look closely at the impact of our decisions and lifestyle choices.”

The fair included workshops on a variety of topics, including commuting by bicycle, using solar energy at home, and making biodiesel fuel. Groups such as the Sierra Club and Missourians for Safe Energy also set up booths and passed out literature.

Fairgoer Ellen Thomas said she tries to teach her children how to lead a less energy-dependent life by bicycling more and eating locally sourced foods. She has attended the Sustainable Living Fair at least twice and likes the community element.

“It’s easy to feel like you’re the only person who knows about global warming,” Thomas said. “If you meet other people who are doing the same things, it’s a great support.”

Konkle said he hopes Ann Arbor’s example will encourage the city of Columbia and its residents to implement similar measures.

“I hope I was able to give them some ideas of things they can do in the community,” Konkle said after his address. “It can be done.”

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