Big city conservation

Watch how asking a simple "what if" question leads to a major conservation initiative in New York City.

Activity Image
35 mins


Learn about Meera Tandon’s role as an Energy Program Manager and how she helps make New York City’s power grid run more efficiently by asking questions and following opportunities.

National Geographic


What you'll need

  • "Managing the New York City power grid" video
  • Projector and screen or a TV to show the video

Start with what you know

  1. Have students turn to a partner and share what they know about LED bulbs.
  2. Discuss LEDs as a whole class.
    • Are they good for the environment and why?
    • What makes them different from old-fashioned (incandescent) bulbs?
    • What role do you think science played in the development of energy-efficient light bulbs?

Watch the video

  1. Have students watch how Meera and her team were able to reduce the amount of energy used throughout New York. Make notes on the following questions:
    • What project did Meera’s team complete to reduce electricity use by 19 megawatts (19 million watts)?
    • What are some of the ways that energy is wasted in New York City?
    • Why do most of Meera’s energy conservation projects involve retrofitting?
  2. Show the video a second time.


  1. Ask students to get into small groups and share their answers. Ask them to also discuss one thing in the video that stood out or surprised them.
  2. Gather as a class and talk about how the actions in the video are examples of conservation. 

Linking to careers in science and conservation

  1. Introduce the term ‘green careers’ and explain that jobs that support the environment and sustainability are considered green careers.
  2. Discuss what Meera does for a job and how it links to science knowledge and qualifications.
    • What is her job title?
    • What does her role involve?
    • How do you think science is connected to the job she does?
    • What kind of qualifications do you think she would need to do this job?
    • Is a green career something you would be interested in? 

Modify or extend this activity

Curriculum Fit

Grade 9 Science 

Curricular competencies

Questioning and predicting
  • Demonstrate a sustained intellectual curiosity about a scientific topic or problem of personal interest
Processing and analyzing data and information
  • Use knowledge of scientific concepts to draw conclusions that are consistent with evidence
  • Analyze cause-and-effect relationships
  • Consider the changes in knowledge over time as tools and technologies have developed
  • Connect scientific explorations to careers in science
  • Critically analyze the validity of information in secondary sources and evaluate the approaches used to solve problems
Applying and innovating
  • Consider the role of scientists in innovation

Grade 9 Career Education 


Connections to community
  • Local and global needs and opportunities

Curricular competencies

  • Recognize and explore diverse perspectives on how work contributes to our community and society

Teaching Notes

Generally more expensive than other lighting options, LEDs save money because they use at least 75% less energy than incandescent lighting and last a minimum of 15,000 hours, or 15 years based on average household use. That life span is about 15 times longer than incandescent lighting, and about two times longer than CFLs (compact fluorescents).

In the past, we looked at the number of watts listed on the package (60w light bulb) to tell us how bright the bulb would glow. With LEDs, we look for lumens. Lumens tell us how much light a bulb emits - the higher the number, the brighter the bulb.

Switching to LEDs is just one example of how we can reduce our energy use. This video showcases one woman’s career as an Energy Program Manager and how she works with local businesses to educate them on how to conserve energy.

This video provides an example of a green career and how one campaign led to a reduction in energy use.

Measuring electricity

The watt (W) is a unit of electrical power, which is the rate at which an appliance or device uses energy.

  • 1 watt = 1 joule/second (J/s)
  • The higher the wattage, the more power the device or appliance uses
  • An 8W LED bulb draws less energy than a 60W incandescent light bulb, but generates about the same amount of visible light 


  • Assess student participation in the activity, their willingness to contribute to discussion in pairs, small groups and as a class.

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