Many of our public school systems have started the process of going green. And it's a good thing. Our nation's 17,450 k-12 school districts spend more than $6 billion annually on energy -- more than is spent on computers and text books combined. Of that $6 billion spent 30% of the total energy is wasted. You do the math. That means that nearly $2 billion of our tax dollars each year is spent unecessarily.
Yes, there is often money needed to improve energy efficiency and that may involve raising taxes to spend a bit of school district scratch. But programs are springing up all over to help stretched school district budgets find the cash they need to make energy improvements. Some of the programs are funded by hungry vendors willing to use energy savings for payment on equipment. Others are funded by non-profit partnerships with state or federal agencies.
Fortunately for Minnesota tax payers, a 3 year project, Minnesota Schools Cutting Karbon, funded by a grant from the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (a.k.a.LCCMR or lottery proceeds) is challenging 100 schools to play an active role in measuring and reducing their school's carbon footprint. The unique thing about this program is that it funds student-led actions providing them with technical and financial help along with a teach or "coach" to produce real measurable savings.
Of course, there is more to greening a school than reducing its carbon footprint. Greening can extend to local organic school lunches, retrofitting polluting school buses and reducing toxic chemicals used for cleaning and maintaining our schools. But energy saving is the low hanging fruit because of the big price tag and the current waste of energy in our schools.
Rosemount High students and staff looking for ways to reduce heating and electricity use.
Rosemount High was funded through the program and found out through an energy audit that they had a larger than state average carbon footprint. They came up with a program, "Cooling Our Heels" which is intended to reduce energy and paper use by 10%. Students will use light meters and infrared thermometers to identify areas needing energy efficiency improvements such as caulking, insulation and weather-stripping. Motion activated sensors, power strips, and energymisers will be used for energy management. Sixteen LCD computer monitors will replace half of the existing CRT monitors for additional energy reduction. Paper reduction training for teachers and monitoring software will reduce the amount of printing by teachers and students. The student team will also organize and promote a walk/bike/carpool/bus day.
Aikin Gobbler Green Team
Aikin Public Schools was also funded and found through their energy audit that they had a better than average carbon footprint but that didn't keep them from striving for improvements. The students' goal is to improve their footprint through promoting lower carbon transportation habits to and from school which seems like a noble but lofty goal in a rural area. The Aitkin Gobbler Green Team is surveying the 7-12 student body to gather information on student transportation habits to and from school. The Green Team has already received hundreds of completed surveys, and will meet to tally the results. Once results are known, the Team will promote energy conservation where it is most needed, e.g. encouraging students to pick up a friend or neighbor and carpool to school.
I don't know about you, but I choose to pin my hopes for a greener world on students like these. As our population increases and earth's natural systems become more and more stressed, we need young people who are ready willing and able to find solutions to the tough problems that we are leaving behind. You go gang!