Think saving energy at school is boring? Think again! Here are some fun facts about what happens when you conserve energy in your classrooms, bathrooms, computer labs and across the district!
When we work with schools in the SEE program, we always say that energy conservation needs to stretch from the board room to the boiler room… and everywhere in between. Lots of our clients target their initial efforts on classrooms, which allows them to get students involved and also change behavior in rooms that are used all day long. When it’s time to dig deeper, schools often shift their focus to staff offices, computer labs and large gymnasiums. But we remind them not to forget about the kitchen!
All schools offer some kind of meal plan to their students. Depending on the size of the district, there may be a full commercial kitchen or perhaps only a limited amount of equipment for keeping things cool and warm. No matter what Food Service in your district looks like, there is energy to be saved!
Most districts do some kind of winter celebration, whether it’s around the holidays or simply some winter themed festivities. When thinking about how to celebrate, remember that there are lots of fun opportunities to engage your staff and students in some green behaviors that will not only benefit them, but your district as well! Consider these holiday-themed, energy saving ideas this December:
- Decorate energy efficiently. Many classroom and schools put up some come of festive holiday décor this time of year – it adds some fun and makes people happy! Decorating can also add some major energy use to your bill, however. Do your best to choose efficient and green options such as LED lights and recycled/recyclable or all natural garland. Plug any electronic decorations into a power strip, and be sure it gets unplugged over nights and weekends. Use reflective tinsel or ornaments rather than electric lights – reflective materials will sparkle on their own when natural or artificial light shines on them!
- Be a recycled light drop point. Most areas have a holiday light recycling program around the holidays, and you can designate one or more of your school buildings as a drop site! Not only can your staff and students bring in old, burnt out or inefficient lights, but the community as well. Be sure to send out internal communications as well as a press release to alert folks in your area!
- Green your holiday party. Host your holiday party during the day to take advantage of natural light – perhaps during no student/staff work day. Serve energy-free foods that require no heating or cooling to prepare and sustain (check out these raw food recipes and these no-bake desserts!). Have compostable plates, cups and flatware – or even better, reusable. Be sure all waste is recyclable. Wrap door prizes or gifts in newspaper, or for a fun flair, paper out of your own recycling bin!
- Choose products with the EPA’s “Design for the Environment” label. Products with this label are more efficient and are made using products safer for the environment and people. Look for companies that provide décor, electronics, candles or party supplies.
Having a green holiday season is easy and can even make it more fun and festive! If you have ideas or tips on how schools can go green this winter – leave a comment!
Lighting accounts for 35% of the energy consumed by commercial buildings, including schools, so it’s no surprise that one of our first recommendations to K-12 clients is to assess lighting needs and make some simple changes.
One of the easiest things you can ask your facilities staff to do is switch from traditional incandescent bulbs to CFL or LED options. CFLs have gotten less expensive and are much more readily available than in the past – but there are still a lot of misconceptions about CFL bulbs.
The SEE® program is a fully customizable energy reduction plan for K-12 schools which focuses on behavior-based energy efficiency strategies. This means that rather than looking only at things like equipment upgrades and alternative energy sources, we focus on how your current systems are using energy…and how the people within your buildings are using energy.
Then we recommend strategies to help the systems and people operate as efficiently as they can each and every day. Helping people understand energy use – and changing their actions around its consumption – is a big job. Unlike new equipment, you don’t simply “install” a behavior program and move on. Rather, we use a proven reiterative change management process that winds its way through every department in your district: from the boiler room, to the board room to the classroom.
CLASS 5 is thrilled to be working with several cities in Minnesota as part of a CARD Grant pilot which brings behavior-based energy efficiency to city buildings. Each of our participants (Duluth, Elk River, Minnetonka, Northfield and White Bear Lake) are provided with several resources for making energy conservation a part of their culture…however they are also tasked with coming up with their own fun and innovative ways to engage both city staff, and community members.
One of those cities, Elk River, decided that this year saying Happy Holidays also mean reminding folks to be energy efficient when they decorate! Check out this great video – and remember to choose energy efficient decor for your home and organization as well!
When we discuss energy management with schools, we talk a lot about common areas, such as the staff lounge. It’s a place where lights get left on, coffee pots stay warm all day and small appliances are never unplugged. It’s easy to assume that controlling energy cost in one room couldn’t possibly make much of a difference. But these areas are often filled with energy-sucking items that are rarely used and because people only spend a few minutes of their day in the lounge, no one does a great job of policing whether these items are ever turned off.
Common areas are a place where energy-related signage and communication are a must! The SEE program provides your district with lots of different posters, tip sheets and hand outs – but each building also has their own unique set of energy-consuming equipment, so creating additional personalized signs are a great idea as well!
We often get asked: “What type of district can benefit from the SEE Program?” Our answer: ANY and ALL!
We have worked with districts large and small; urban, suburban and rural; in our home state of Minnesota and out-state; in traditional public schools and non-traditional schools alike. What we have found is that every school that makes a commitment to SEE has the potential to be successful.
Whether you are a single-building private school, large public district or intermediate school, , behavior-based energy conservation programs can fit your needs. Because we focus on the people and unique aspects of each of your buildings rather than the mechanical infrastructure, we can customize conservation strategies in ways that other programs don’t.
Check out how one non-traditional school district saved money and reduced energy:
When a district first begins working with us, they often ask: How long should we plan on implementing SEE? The truth is, the answer is up to you! We often advise that a two-year minimum commitment is where you start. This is to ensure that all departments and buildings in your district have a chance to be integrated into the program, that all of the proper groundwork is laid and that the culture of energy conservation has a chance to truly take hold. From there, though, the sky is the limit!
We have districts that have implemented the program for the initial two years and then made the decision to continue their energy conservation efforts on their own. We also have districts that have stayed with the program for more than 10 years! These districts have recognized the significant cultural and financial benefits of maintaining a connection with SEE’s proven change process, our consultants, and our resources.
Read about one district that stayed with the SEE program for seven years and continued to find more and more ways to conserve!
South Washington County Schools reduced energy use by nearly 22% and avoided more than $3 million in energy costs.
ne of the most common things we are asked for is “fun facts” about how to save energy As part of the SEE program, we advocate for communicating often and to everyone about energy conservation, its benefits, how people can help and what your district is doing. In order to stay fresh, it’s good to have several messages to choose from. It’s also a good practice to use different communications vehicles. Perhaps your district has a Twitter or Facebook account that you could post a message on. Or, maybe you have a staff intranet that you can put messages on daily or weekly.