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Norwalk Energy Assessments To Fund New Student Program At Aquarium

Erin O'Neill of Next Step Living, Stephanie Weiner and Collin Babbage of New England Smart Energy, Mayor Harry Rilling and Councilman John Kydes with a $10,000 used to fund the new program at the Maritime Aquarium.
Erin O'Neill of Next Step Living, Stephanie Weiner and Collin Babbage of New England Smart Energy, Mayor Harry Rilling and Councilman John Kydes with a $10,000 used to fund the new program at the Maritime Aquarium. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue

NORWALK, Conn. – The success of the Norwalk Energy Challenge has allowed the city to fund a new educational program for students at the Maritime Aquarium.

The Energy Challenge was spearheaded by the Mayor’s Energy and Environment Task Force, led by Councilman John Kydes. The purpose of the challenge was to encourage residents to sign up for home energy assessments through New England Smart Energy and Next Step Living.

“Since the Norwalk Challenge started this past August, we’ve had over 200 completed home energy assessments, saving Norwalk residents $50,000 to $100,000 on their home energy costs, which is a very impressive number,” Kydes said. He said that Connecticut Light & Power has committed to support the task force in a new energy challenge, which will start in January and run through June.

The home energy assessments are designed to identify ways that homeowners can cut energy waste, reducing their carbon footprint and saving them money on their home energy bills. For each $99 assessment, New England Smart Energy and Next Step Living donated $50 to the task force. The groups presented the city with a $10,000 check Thursday, which will be combined with private donations and expected future donations to fund the new Mayor's Engineering and Science Program at the aquarium.

Erin O’Neill, senior regional manager in the outreach department of Next Step Living, said that the home energy assessments performed in Norwalk saved 360 metric tons of greenhouse gases from being emitted, which she said is the equivalent of 837 barrels of oil or two train cars of coal.

Mayor Harry Rilling praised Kydes’s leadership on the task force and the results of his hard work.

“He’s been nothing short of remarkable, he’s gotten the job done,” Rilling said. The new program at the aquarium will benefit 50 students who might otherwise not be able to afford participating in the aquarium. “They’re going to go through a program where they’re going to learn about the environment, learn about the Sound, learn about clean water, learn about all the things we need to know to be responsible inhabitants of this planet.”

The new program at the aquarium will be offered in collaboration between the city, the school district and the aquarium.

“In the Maritime Aquarium’s education department, our most important goal is that the students and teachers of Norwalk can see the aquarium as a true extension of their classrooms. This program is a very important step in that direction,” said Tom Naiman, education director at the aquarium.

Next summer 50 students from Norwalk middle schools will attend their summer camp program.

“They’ll be exploring the Sound on our ground-breaking new hydro-electric catamaran, they’ll be setting up and maintaining an aquarium in the classroom, they’ll be visiting behind-the-scenes areas and having hands-on experiences with our aquarists and our educators.”

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