From Energy Efficiency to Environmental Education: Meet Eco-Club Tapan

Special for the Armenian Weekly

This is the second in a series of six articles that feature the work of environmental organizations in Armenia.

The second stop on my journey to learn more about Armenia’s environmental organizations took me to Eco-Club Tapan. As a volunteer working with the Armenian Environmental Network (AEN), I’ve known about Tapan’s work as one of AEN’s partner organizations. Tapan and AEN have been working together on the Vardenis Environmental Education Initiative over the past year. While AEN has worked to implement environmental education programs in participating schools in the Vardenis sub-region, near the border with Azerbaijan, Tapan has worked with the same schools to improve energy efficiency. Their work involves replacing windows, doors, and old heating systems.

Tapan says it’s hard to stay focused on one thing. There’s always more work to be done.
Tapan says it’s hard to stay focused on one thing. There’s always more work to be done.

I recently visited one of our participating schools, which was deep into a Tapan window remodel. Keeping a school in Armenia warm during winter is a daunting task, which makes for a difficult learning environment for students. There’s little insulation, which means heat produced can escape quickly. In addition, many schools have outdated heating systems that run on gas or even naphthalene, a harmful chemical that is possibly carcinogenic to humans. The fumes produced can leave a school smelling like a gas station, and the potential health and environmental impacts are obvious. The need for heating improvements is clear, and Tapan is at the forefront of this work.

Tapan’s work, however, extends far beyond improving energy efficiency. In total, Tapan works with approximately 150 schools in all 11 regions of Armenia. They run teacher trainings, giving teachers the tools to implement new lessons in their classrooms. The Tapan curriculum focuses on energy and water savings, alternative energy, and basic environmental science. They’ve been operating since 1996, and in 2001 began receiving funding from the School Project on Application of Energy and Resources, or SPARE, which operates in 17 countries in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. Their support of Tapan has allowed the organization to drastically extend its reach.

Tapan believes it is important that Armenians learn the facts about GMOs
Tapan believes it is important that Armenians learn the facts about GMOs

Tapan has some exciting new projects on the horizon. One of their latest endeavors is an education project focused on genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Opponents of GMOs cite health and environmental risks. Tapan believes it is important that Armenians learn the facts about GMOs, and they’re making it a priority in upcoming programs. With their various education projects and school renovations, and the environmental challenges facing Armenia today, Tapan says it’s hard to stay focused on one thing. There’s always more work to be done.

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Ali Hamlin

Ali Hamlin currently lives in Yerevan, working as a volunteer with Birthright Armenia. In her time with Birthright she has worked for the American University of Armenia, the Fund for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets, the Armenian Environmental Network, and the Janapar Trail. She hails from the North Shore of Boston and in her free time enjoys hiking, sailing the small sailboat she built with her dad, and staring out at the ocean. Ali holds a degree in Chemistry from the University of Rochester.

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