It’s Back to School season, that time of the year when parents and kids shift gears — big time. Unless you’re a teacher, a principal, or a schools chancellor, you might not know that Schools have to get ready to Go Back to School, too! The New York Times has a story about the impressive green efforts at a number of metropolitan-area schools. Many of these actions will be familiar to Practically Green users — switch off the lights when the room is empty, unplug appliances that aren’t in use, save energy in numerous ways. “We’re focused on energy reduction like crazy,” NYC’s school chancellor says.
Today’s guest blogger offers an even broader perspective. As Program Director for Whipple Hill, the go-to resource for web and software designed for top-tier educators, Jill Judd advises educators coast to coast.
Back-to-School Green, by Jill Judd
Summer is not quite over and there are still plenty of beach days and BBQs to be had. Soon though, the nights will bring a slight chill in the air and it will be time for that school bell to ring once again. Although it may not be quite as fun as hanging by the pool, “back to school” season is usually pretty exciting too!
While the students are plotting out their best first day of school outfit or planning their strategy to score straight “A’s”, the teachers and school staff are prepping their classrooms, buildings, grounds and lunch menus to make sure that this will be the best school year yet. No matter who you are in the school community, there is plenty of preparation that must be done before that first bell can ring.
It’s true, the stress of back to school planning can take its toll, but have you considered how heading back to school can also impact the environment? There are lots of great ways that everyone in the school community can chip and do their part and most of them are easier than you think to accomplish.
Before the hustle and bustle begins, the campus is already abuzz with activity. The buildings and grounds staff are hard at work making sure that everything runs smoothly. The lights go on, the buildings are cooled and the grounds are checked for safety. Did you know though that most schools pay for their energy usage for entire year based on those first few startup weeks? This is called a school’s “peak demand” and it means that the energy company will bill the school based on their highest amount of usage over a given period.
Here’s a simple math lesson to get your gears going before your first big pop quiz:
More Lights + More AC = More $$
According to Rachael Buchanan, K-12 Independent/University Market Manager and one of SchoolDude.com’s resident energy experts, schools can lower their peak demand charges by making a few simple changes. For starters, be sure that when it is time to bring campus back to life, do so slowly. In other words, don’t wake a sleeping giant. It is extremely important to be sure that everything is in working order, but when testing the lights for example, be sure that they are not left on for long periods of time. Another thing that can be helpful is to set the heating and cooling units to reasonable daytime temperature that is comfortable without requiring a sweater at the end of August or shorts in mid-October.
Building automation systems can be extremely effective for this purpose. An automation system will allow you to tell a building when it should come to life and when it should take a nap. Annual energy audits are also a great way to keep costs down. Audits can be conducted by an engineering firm or self-directed by the school’s maintenance staff. Simply reviewing all of the school’s equipment to be sure that it is in proper working order will go a long way to ensure that it is using energy efficiently.
Teachers and office staff can help keep energy costs down too! Classroom computers and other instructional items should always be powered off when they are not in use. Do you have a personal coffee pot, mini fridge or microwave in your classroom? Shared teacher/ staff break rooms can save decrease a lot of energy usage. Saved energy translates into more money that can be put back into school programs. Just make sure that you don’t steal someone else’s lunchtime burrito!
Aside from energy usage, there are many other initiatives that can be put into place to make campus a greener, healthier place. Students may have the biggest voice in this effort and it is so important for them to get involved. Does your school have a green team? Here’s a great activity that you can join, without even having to try out!
Green teams or eco-school programs are an awesome way to rally support and create awareness at school. In fact, green teams are responsible for generating lots of change at schools around the country. From recycling programs to organic lunch options, these groups are making a real difference.
Far Hills Country Day School in Far Hills, NJ installed Windspires on their campus. These wind turbines are expected to offset the energy costs for the classrooms of up to two different grade levels. Students were able to take part in the entire process from planning approval to classroom education on wind energy.
In Albuquerque, NM, the entire school community of Albuquerque Academy takes part in achieving the school’s sustainability goals. Food waste from the school cafeteria is composted in worm beds that are also used for science classes. Speaking of food, before it is turned into compost at this school, it is purchased from mostly local growers and food sources. Any leftovers are frozen and donated to a local food pantry as well, making sure that very little will ever go to waste. This fall, Albuquerque will be taking their green initiatives to the web by recreating their school’s printed magazine publication in a more accessible and highly sustainable online format. In doing so, they’ll not only be saving paper and a pretty penny on postage, but will also gain the ability to track the readership of their magazine using web-based analytics!
There are so many ways that schools can become more eco-friendly. Organizations like The Green Schools Alliance are helpful resources that you can use to get started. Great ideas are bred by the thoughts of many. So much more can be accomplished when everyone lends a hand. So why not go back to school “green” this year?
Jill’s autobiography: Jill Judd is a thirty-something foodie, wine lover, fashionista, and reformed green girl. By day, she runs a successful partner program for Whipple Hill Communications out of Southern NH. By night, she can be found in Raleigh, NC with her boyfriend David and lovable, albeit ever so slightly neurotic shih-tzu named Max.
Always on the go, Jill treasures any time she can spend with her friends and loves to sit down with a good book, or work on her own blog – Fashionably Chaotic. Jill’s green initiatives started small with just everyday recycling, but after noticing what a difference it made in the amount of trash she was throwing out every week, she began to explore other ways to go green. Now a huge advocate for buying and cooking local, Jill has found the health benefits of enjoying a local and mostly organic diet. From changing out the light bulbs to taking up gardening, Jill is learning something new everyday about sustainability. Her biggest challenge so far has been weeding out her make-up bag…but some day she’ll get there!
Pssst to Jill: check out PG’s Green Beauty actions!