Stories & Features

Art and energy conservation go hand in hand at Place des Arts in Coquitlam

Image of Place des Arts spring break camp participants

The non-profit encourages kids to start thinking about energy management at an early age

Place des Arts, an established non-profit arts and music hub in Maillardville, Coquitlam is emerging as a city leader in energy conservation and management.

The organization recently partnered with the City of Coquitlam to replace aging infrastructure with high-efficiency equipment and obtained funding to complete an energy efficient lighting retrofit that's saving 58,000 kWh a year – a $5,700 savings.

But that's not all. Place des Arts went one step further, developing a behavioural change program that combined art and energy management to give staff, teachers, students and the community, opportunities to fight energy waste. The program had two main goals:

  1. Engage staff as active energy management champions to help create a culture of conservation at Place des Arts
  2. Embed energy management programming into Place des Arts' calendar of public events and resources

Energy management messaging was broadcast through community-facing displays and integrated into class programming. Kids and parents learned about electricity use through a variety of activities including:

  • Using recycled materials to make door snakes for eliminating under-door drafts
  • Completing an activity booklet featuring conservation superheros 'Ms. Outlet and Switch'
  • A lantern-making workshop that showcased how everyday activities can be accomplished without the use of overhead lighting.

Staff at Place des Arts welcomed the opportunity to help the kids connect with conservation behaviours through art. "It's one of the most under-appreciated methods of communicating the message of why it's important to conserve energy," says Place des Arts programmer, Oliver McTavish Wisden. "If you can encourage kids to start thinking about energy management at an early age and build it into everyday activities, conserving becomes second nature."

Each of the activities attracted over 45 participants. The activity book was a great success, with 75 booklets printed. The lantern-making workshop drew external attention and Place des Arts was offered a grant from Westminster Savings, which allowed the non-profit to host an additional 19 workshops. The extra workshops drew another 1,100 participants. In December 2015, programming wrapped up with an event called the Lantern Affair. The event was attended by more than 300 Place des Arts patrons and featured lanterns made during the workshops.

Today, Place des Arts continues to lead through example in energy management. The commitments that staff and students made to save energy have been compiled into a permanent pledge poster and installed in the Place des Arts office, serving as an ongoing reminder to conserve where possible.