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College students opt for an alternative energy spring break
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More than 50 college students are passing up the beach this spring break and instead helping the Merced County Fairgrounds become more energy efficient.

Student volunteers from UC Merced and other UC campuses in the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) Energy Service Corps will be changing hundreds of light bulbs at the Merced County Fair fairgrounds today as part of a five-day "Alternative Energy Spring Break" event.

They will swap old incandescent light bulbs for more energy efficient, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and install weather stripping in the fairgrounds' Pavilion and Administration buildings.

The project is part of the program's goal to slash energy usage by more than 30 percent, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut down on pollution. The Energy Service Corps is a joint program of CALPIRG and AmeriCorps. It is being run on 14 university and community college campuses across the state to encourage over 30,000 Californians to reduce their energy use, save money on their utility bills and reduce their environmental pollution. The program also plans to perform 4,000 free home energy surveys to give residents and tenants energy-saving recommendations.  

The Merced County Fair fairgrounds buildings were selected for the energy upgrade because, "The fairgrounds is an important community institution, not only because of its history, but because it continues to play a big role in community life," said Danielle Lauber, the UC Merced Energy Service Corps Campus Organizer.

"With the state budget cuts fairs are facing, we can't afford to make these kinds of improvements," said Tom Musser, the fair's CEO. "Partnering with the Energy Service Corps volunteers will reduce our energy use and that will help the environment and save us money. It's a great community partnership."

Volunteers from UC Merced's Energy Service Corps have completed weatherization projects to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption at two older Merced buildings, the Merced Elks Lodge and the Merced Rescue Mission.