If today's kids are taught the importance and the "why" of saving energy, then possibly they will demand less energy for their upcoming adult lives than has our generation and the whole thing spirals in a positive direction of less natural resource use and less dependence on non-USA sources of raw energy basics.
This year, New York City became the largest school district in the country to announce that it would “go green.” This is no small undertaking—the district has more than 1200 buildings and 1 million students—but efforts are already paying off. “In one building, becoming more energy-efficient helped slash electric bills in half,” says John Shea, chief executive for the NYC Department of Education’s Division of School Facilities. And just as important, Shea adds, is that students can take the positive message home to their families and communities.
With these recent efforts to green its schools, New York has joined a growing movement to create learning environments that benefit both students and the health of the planet. States including New Jersey and Maryland have passed legislation requiring all new school buildings to meet stricter standards of sustainability, and others are taking similar measures. The benefits could be enormous. “Going green can save large sums of money, reduce a school’s carbon footprint, and teach children the importance of being environmentally aware,” says Jennifer Freeman, a volunteer with the Green Schools Alliance, which works with nearly 2000 schools nationwide.
At a time when many districts are strapped for cash, the financial savings in electricity and water bills may be particularly enticing. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, taxpayers spend about $8 billion a year on energy for K–12 schools. But, Freeman says, “if everyone went green, we could reduce that by about 35%.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean building brand-new schools or implementing costly renovations in existing ones. Small steps—like setting computers to shut down at night or installing motion sensors to turn off lights when no one is in the room—have a large environmental and financial impact. Even just putting a recycling bin in the cafeteria and adjusting the heat or air-conditioning by a few degrees can make a difference.
Schools should encourage parents to get involved, too, by sending their children to school with reusable lunch bags and not leaving their cars idling at the curb during pick-up and drop-off times. They’ll lower their household bills and set a good example at the same time.
The Green Schools Alliance suggests that students join staff in a scavenger hunt to find other ways to lower energy use in their schools and homes. “We breed leaders by making them feel in control of energy usage at their school,” Freeman says. “They are helping the planet and saving money. Most of all, they are becoming part of a community of people working to make the world a better place.”
by Emily Listfield
by Emily Listfield