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Union Gas Student Essay Scholarship: Ashley Larose

"While some subjects never seem to evolve, there is always something changing in the sciences."

Green energy is a familiar topic for Ashley LaRose, 2011 winner of the Union Gas Essay Scholarship.

During her four years at her high school in Cochrane, LaRose completed various projects on energy conservation.

The 18-year-old says that there are a lot of things that people don't realize they can do to help their community.

Simple things like turning off the television after you are done watching it, or turning off the lights when you're about to leave the room can really make a difference, she said.

"I don't think anybody is against any of it," says LaRose, "because most people are completely willing to help the environment in any way, shape, or form."

The issue, she noticed, wasn't that people didn't know, or that they didn't care, but it was easier to ignore those personal practices than to make the change in lifestyle.

"I think to change that mentality, you just need to make the options well-known to everybody," she says.

In her essay, entitled "When I was your age," LaRose discusses several ways in being energy efficient.

She describes the process of becoming more energy conscious as similar to going on a diet, and that both lifestyle changes should begin in moderation if you want them to continue.

She writes, "Both are difficult to stick with until you begin to see results, and many people give up before the results have time to show."

"You won't be able to tell that global warming is lessening. The only thing you will be able to see is the change in your monthly bills."

She goes on to say that if people feel like they have something to gain from the entire experience, then they will be willing to sacrifice their current lifestyle to make it happen.

The name of the essay was taken from the perspective of when adults were the age of today's children.

LaRose takes readers back 40 years when the typical Canadian family wasn't as reliant on technology and children would spend their afternoons biking around town and playing at the beach.

Then, there was only one television per household, and personal computers and home entertainment systems were years away.

She compares it to today's average family who generally own three televisions, a game system and a couple of computers.

"Each room has lights on and people in it," she writes. "The televisions are running just for background noise."

LaRose says that living in larger centres such as Toronto is actually easier to be energy-efficient, because of the availability of resources, "because in a small town, to find someone to install a drain water heat recovery system, or to install solar panels, it's much more difficult, and it's more costly.

"In a bigger city, it's simpler in the sense that you have public transit, and you have all these contractors who know about all this new technology that is energy-efficient."

But regardless of the obstacles, LaRose says she does her very best to help the environment as much as possible.

She makes sure when new appliances need to be bought, that they are energy efficient, and walks around her town when she has to, as opposed to driving

"I try to do it to the best of my abilities," she says. "Plus I have a dog, so I kind of have to walk her all the time.

"That definitely helps."

In high school, there were very few classes that LaRose did not enjoy. She excells in both biology and chemistry.

"I cannot say why exactly I love these subjects so much," she said. "If I were to venture a guess, I would say it is because I am an avid learner.

"While some subjects never seem to evolve, there is always something changing in the sciences."

She now studies nursing at Laurentian University in Sudbury.