Seeing The Light About Conservation

Pat Gegen holds one of the compact fluorescent light bulbs he's been distributing across Kaua'i

One man is making a big difference in the way people on Kaua’i light up their homes and think about energy

An energy-efficient light bulb must have gone off in Pat Gegen’s head when he had the idea to partner with Blue Planet Foundation and Apollo Kaua’i to help distribute compact fluorescents across the island in exchange for less-adept incandescents.

“The goal is to make sure we are getting those out of people’s sockets to save them money and to have our utility create less electricity for us,” says Gegen, a stay-at-home dad who’s been an advocate for decreasing Kaua’i’s dependence on fossil fuels for many years.

A CFL uses 13 watts of electricity and produces the same lumens (light) as a 60-watt incandescent light bulb. “So you’re using a fourth to a third of the electricity to give you a similar amount of light,” he says.

About 3,500 CFLs have already been distributed around the island at various schools and events, with another 1,500 ready to go.

Gegen, president of Kalaheo Elementary School PTSA and a trained school counselor, volunteers his time to help teach the school’s fifth-graders the necessities of going green.

“I’m very interested in conserving energy, and one of the best ways to help the island is to make sure our keiki well-understand the concepts of conservation,” he says. “Conservation is usually the best way to save energy and not have to create more. One of the things we definitely do not want to do is buy any more.”

The students not only received CFLs from Gegen, he loaned them gadgets called Kill A Watt E Z’s to take home so they could determine how much energy their appliances were using over a two-week period.

The father of seven – all over age 20 except for 9-year-old Olivia – doesn’t just talk the energy-efficient talk, he walks it, too. His modest Kalaheo home was constructed in an environmentally savvy manner with skylights, a solar water heater and a windmill.

“We love Kaua’i. We love the beauty of it and we wanted to create the smallest carbon footprint we could,” says Gegen of himself and wife Marghee Maupin, a nurse practitioner at Kaua’i Medical Clinic.

Motivating people to change their habits is fun for Gegen, which is why he rarely misses County Council meetings or any event that has something to do with moving Kaua’i toward a more-sustainable future.

“Our world is changing. We’re not going to have the same luxuries we’ve grown up with – cheap fossil fuel opportunities,” he says. “The oil that’s left is not easy to get.”

And Kaua’i is behind the times as far as alternative energy is concerned. In fact, 96 percent of the island’s electricity is still generated by fossil fuels. “There are a lot of good alternatives out there,” he says, adding that educating the community about the importance of switching to sustainable resources and conservative methods feels great.

“You can have a good influence and see some of your dreams and aspirations come to fruition or see others grasping them,” says Gegen, who even finds the time to assist the state Department of Transportation on Kaua’i with its long-range multi-modal plan. “When you can help people understand things, they can make better decisions.”

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