Saving The Earth, One School At A Time by Eco Eagles
To educate and encourage our staff, students, and broader community, on the importance and avenues, for energy conservation.
We believe giving children direction and participation in energy conservation procedures will provide our community with a healthier planet and create strong leaders. If we get kids on board with being energy efficient, they will continue to live their lives in a globally conscientious manner--it will be just "the way" to do things!
Our district has sponsored an "Energy Challenge" for 6 years now. From the elementary through the high school level, staff and students are encouraged to form a 'green team' to audit their buildings, then discuss and demonstrate how to reduce energy use to the rest of the community. The school's energy use is then tracked for one month. Schools compete to show the largest reduction in energy use from the previous year, and top schools receive a monetary award to use towards other eco-friendly actions. The overall top reducing school also gets the 'traveling trophy,' to display in their school for the year.
Each year, the top performing school has reduced electricity by more than 20% compared to the previous year. Since inception, the program has saved the districts tens of thousands of dollars. Last year, all of the schools participating, reduced energy use in the month of February! Two-thirds of BVSD schools have participated in this challenge since its inception. In 2011/2012 BVSD partnered with the City of Boulder and the Center for Resource Conservation to create a home component to the competition, and saved an estimated 68 percent in homes through the promotion of home energy action checklists (based on CRC’s calculations.)
Last year the education center coordinated with a company to make an 'energy dashboard,' that we posted on our school's website, so the community at large could see our energy use in watts, dollars, and carbon dioxide pounds, in REAL time! We had almost a 22% reduction from the previous year, and saved our school about $900, in one month!
What actions do you propose?
Taken from the district website:
"Schools [are] evaluated in five areas, including forming (or continuing) an active green team at the school, conducting an energy audit of the school, taking follow up action on at least one recommendation from the audit, educating the school community and competing to reduce energy during the month of February.
Schools [create] green teams, [conduct] audits, [create] signage, [design] creative displays, actively [monitor] energy use and data, [create] videos and morning announcements... with tips on how to save energy, [hold] assemblies to get the whole school community involved, [lower] thermostats, [post] stickers and posters, and much more." Additionally, all participating schools have access to a 'dashboard' online, that shows energy use for the particular school in real time.
The "District Energy Team" from the education center then review the data collected and decide upon the winners.
From BVSD Office of Sustainability Manager, Ghita Carroll: "This program started with one school and then grew to a few more as a partnership with CRC. It was a wonderful partnership, and so successful that we eventually had to split ways so we could offer the program district-wide. We continue to see savings each [consecutive] year, and are pleased with how the program has grown. We introduced the dashboard [district-wide] this year, and the schools are thrilled to have an interactive and dynamic opportunity to see and work with [real-time] energy data. Our next iteration of this program will be to offer a shared savings model, where any school who signs up to participate will receive a nominal incentive, and of those schools, they will receive a percentage of the savings they are able to achieve. At the moment, schools are disconnected from utility bills, as they do not pay utilities [directly]. This program will act as a bridge to make that connection and provide further incentive to conserve [energy] long term."
"We have been able to grow the program from a limited scope, to something we now offer to all of our schools. We have developed a model that can accommodate as many schools that are interested by creating a clear structure, offering webinars for training, and creating videos on how to conduct energy audits at school. We also have a kit of materials for schools to use per request for audits and educational needs."
"For the challenge, each school is tracking its own current energy use compared to past energy use at a similar time frame. This means the schools is essentially competing against itself. This is an important note, as it would not be fair to compare a small school to a large school as apples to apples as the energy use looks very different. Top performing schools are awarded at each level. This model is transferable to businesses, even if sizes and functions vary."
Who will take these actions?
This voluntary competition is open to all BVSD schools. Participating schools commit to forming a green team consisting of students and at least one adult mentor (teacher, parent or other.) Participation requires administrator approval. Participating schools engage their entire school community of staff and students, and the program is supported by district staff and interns working for the Office of Sustainability.--for rules, data collection, and awards.
*There are a few administrator requirements for participation*:
A. Administrators must make a commitment to model the best energy behaviors. By showing your staff and students that sustainability and energy management are important, you will see immediate results. Also, by supporting the efforts of those students and staff working on this, you will encourage them and others to make great changes.
B. Each school must identify an “Energy Champion” who will help guide the school during the incentive period and be a contact for the BVSD Sustainability Coordinator. (The Energy Champion should be an adult mentor for the student team outlined in point 1 above.
C. Provide a “Sustainability Information Space”—a bulletin board or dedicated computer where all students and staff can see how the school is performing. It should have tips and information to help your school succeed. The primary resource for this will be the energy dashboard.
D. Help to identify a student group to help drive the program. This could be the student council, an environmental or science club, a relevant class or service project group, or any other group that wants to help. These students will be the main drivers for the challenge, and will work with the Energy Champion to complete the program requirements.
**The "Green Team' students at my school, tell me they went home and talked to their parents about changing out light bulbs, turning off unnecessary electronics, and explained about the cell phone cord and other "Energy Vampires!"
What are the key challenges?
School districts will have to coordinate the challenge and procure donations for prizes. An individual school needs an "Eco-Champion," willing to build and educate a team of youth. The group then needs to think of ways to educate and motivate the staff and students to reduce their energy use throughout their day.
What are the key benefits?
Increase knowledge and awareness in communities, including people of all ages, about energy use and conservation practices.
Save school money for other agenda items. Individual schools get to choose future environmental projects to do at their site, with prize monies. Again, Ghita Carroll: "This program will act as a bridge to make that connection and provide further incentive to conserve long term.
This is the first year the dashboard and meters were fully in place. While we do track energy use goals district-wide long term, we have not begun to do this school by school. With the dashboard [program] in place [for all schools], and the implementation of the shared savings program, we will now have the opportunity to monitor and encourage energy use reduction for longer periods of time (outside of the current one month program) at each school.
We have seen benefit of offering this program year after year, and have no plans to be “done” in the near future. While we plan for this program to stay in district, we have participated in national competitions in partnership with the Green Schools Alliance, and offered credit and educational support for energy savings at home as part of this as well. We will continue to do this as partnership opportunities arise."
**In my own school, I have observed staff continuing to perform behaviors we asked them to take in the February challenge during the rest of the year: a first grade teacher reminds students to turn off the monitor before leaving the computer lab, and the custodian continues with the "Lights Out Lunch," wherein he turns off half of the lights in the lunchroom while the students are eating!!
***And for the district challenge this year, the 14 schools that participated as a group reduced energy use in one month by 8%, saving $7,000 and reached more than 14,000 student and staff!
What are the proposal’s costs?
There are staff members at the education center who oversee the execution of the month-long competition, as well as garner grants or donations to cover prize money.
Costs to purchase a traveling trophy.
Approximately 4 months:
Month 1: Sign up period, send sign up information to schools, schools acquire administrator approvals.
Month 2: Schools being to conduct audits (supported by District Energy Team). Green teams begin to educate staff and students, create signage and other materials.
Month 3: Competition to reduce energy begins. Schools and Energy Team to track data using utility bills, energy dashboard (if available) and by collecting meter data each week.
Month 4: Review data from each of the required 5 components to determine winners, celebrate winning schools (e.g. school assemblies, district-wide communication, school-wide recognition).
Month Forever: continue to educate and encourage energy reduction behaviors everyday!!