Apr 15

Month by Month School Green Team Ideas – March & April

Over the course of six weeks, we will share with you a whole year’s worth of ideas for your school’s Green Teams! Check back every week, and download a PDF of the entire 12-month plan at the end of the series!

If you missed our first installment of Month-by-Month Green Team Tasks, click here to read it. If you read the first one, we hope that means you’ve already started your 12-month calendar, organized your school’s Green Team and are ready for more! Keep reading for some suggested tasks for March and April.


March: Establish a System for Measuring and Reporting Results

How many times has your team wondered about or been asked these questions:

  • How much energy does our school district use? Is that more or less than we should be using?
  • How does our energy use compare to other schools just like us?
  • How much money do we spend on energy?
  • How much money have we saved since we starting working to be more green?


At CLASS 5 Energy, we stress to our clients that measuring and sharing energy use and costs is one of the most important aspects of a district wide energy-saving effort. That’s because it’s very hard to manage something you don’t measure. Think of it like losing weight – after a few weeks of dieting, your clothes might fit better and you may have more energy, but will you really know if you’ve reached your goal if you never step on a scale? Whether you are using a certified measurement and verification tool, such as the one developed by CLASS 5 Energy, or simply a checklist to mark when goals have been completed – now is the time to start thinking about how to communicate where you are starting and what you are hoping to achieve.

Most school districts track their energy use and costs monthly, in conjunction with receiving their utility measure-energy-savingsbills. In order to share this information, we recommend reporting results quarterly. This gives enough time to see trends and patterns, but doesn’t allow for too much time to pass and people to forget that you are working towards these goals. Work with your communications team to decide how and when results will be announced.

As a school district, it’s important to share this information with your staff as well as the community! Saving money through saving energy is a great way to show that you are being responsible with tax dollars and value the property and buildings within your district.


April: Earth Day – Plan an Event

There are many ways to celebrate Earth Day – cleaning up trash, planting trees, donating to an environmental cause or simply raising awareness around your building are all great places to start. If you are looking for ideas, visit the Earth Day website to pledge an act of green.

Not sure what to do in your district? Here are 2 ideas:

  • Have an energy-free staff potluck to raise awareness about conserving energy. Ask everyone to bring a dish that requires no energy (heating or cooling) to make or store: salsas, crackers, hard cheeses, fresh fruits and veggies or these no-cook desserts and other recipes
  • Hold a district-wide campus clean up! Get staff, students and even the community to come and clean up your buildings and grounds. Since everyone in the district will be out cleaning, it’s a great time to save some energy as well! Shut down computers, turn out lights, shut off office equipment and unplug any electronics that won’t be used for teaching or learning during the campus clean up.

Community building events such as these tend to pay dividends far greater than the resources they require: in staff, student and community satisfaction, stronger team development and increased morale. And all the while you are doing your part to make the world more sustainable.

Miss a post? No problem – here’s the first post:

Month-by-Month Green Team Tasks – January & February

Apr 09

8 Reasons Your School Should be More Energy Efficient

8-reasons-your-school-should-be-more-energy-efficientAt CLASS 5 Energy, one of our most popular products is the Schools for Energy Efficiency (SEE) Program®. For over 10 years, we have been helping K-12 schools across the United States reduce their energy consumption and save money along the way. We’ve worked with school districts of all sizes, and help them avoid millions of dollars of energy costs – not to mention reduced GHG emissions and shrinking the footprint of more than 800 buildings.

There are many reasons for K-12 schools to reduce energy. ENERGY STAR®, who we work closely with, lays out these reasons why your schools should be more energy efficient:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other environmental impacts. Improving energy efficiency in schools buildings can help reduce GHG emissions and air pollutants by decreasing the consumption of fossil fuels. Fossil fuel consumption from electricity accounts for 40% of the nations carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a principal GHG, and 67% and 23% of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, respectively, which can lead to smog, acid rain and respiratory problems for many people (U.S. EPA, 20081; U.S. EPA, 2008m).
  • Increase economic benefits through job creation and market development. Investing in energy efficiency can stimulate the local economy and encourage development of energy efficiency service markets. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), approximately 60% of energy efficiency investments goes to labor costs, and half of all energy-efficient equipment is purchased from local supplies (U.S. DOE, 2004). Across the nation, energy efficiency technologies and services are estimated to have created more than 8 million jobs in 2006 (ASES, 2008).
  • Demonstrate leadership. Investing in energy efficiency helps raise demand of energy-efficient technology from local residents and business, and demonstrates responsible stewardship of public resources since reduced energy costs translate into save tax dollars. (U.S. DOE, 2007).
  • Reduce energy costs. Schools spend approximate $75 per student on gas bills and $130 per student on electricity each year (U.S. EPA, 2008). By implement energy efficiency measures, many K-12 schools have been able to reduce energy costs by as much as 30% in excising facilities (U.S. EPA, 2004b). According to the EPA, modification of a pre-existing building for energy efficiency can save a typical 100,000 square foot school building between $10,000 and $16,000 annually, and simple behavioral and operational measures alone can reduce energy costs by up to 25% (U.S. EPA, 2008).
  • Improve student performance. Energy-efficiency school building designs often use natural daylight to reduce the nervy needed to light a building. Natural light has been proven to have a positive effect on student performance. According to a study for the California Board for Energy Efficiency, students exposed to natural daylight in classrooms progress as much as 20% faster ton math tests and as much as 26% faster on reading tests than students with no daylight exposure (HMG, 1999). Another study concluded that students in schools that offer environmental education programs have higher test scores than students in schools with no such programs (U.S. EPA, 2008).
  • Improve indoor air quality. Some energy efficiency upgrades can improve occupant health by enhancing indoor air quality. Installing energy recovery ventilation equipment, for example, can reduce infiltration of air contaminants from outdoors while significantly reducing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) energy loads (U.S. EPA, 2003). One study on building performance found that average reduction in illness as a result of improved air quality in buildings is about 40% (Carnegie Mellon, 2005).
  • Increase security and safety. Improving energy efficiency in K-12 school buildings can have positive effects on school security and student safety. For example, energy-efficient exterior lighting can enhance security while reducing energy costs by providing effective and even light distribution (U.S. EPA, 2008).
  • Other benefits. Other benefits from improving energy efficiency in K-12 school buildings include improvements in teacher retention rates, reductions in insurance costs, and reduced legal liability due to improved indoor environmental quality (Capital E, 2006; CHPS, 2006).

Apr 01

Month by Month School Green Team Ideas – January & February

Over the course of six weeks, we will share with you a whole year’s worth of ideas for your school’s Green Team! Check back every week, and download a PDF of the entire 12-month plan at the end of the series!

If your school district has adopted sustainability and energy efficiency as one of its core values, you have probably started a Green Team. Perhaps there is just one team to represent the entire district – or, maybe you have a team at each school.

No matter what your team look like, one of the most common questions we are asked is “What should my Green Team be doing?” This is a common problem among school districts – they form a Green Team to oversee and coordinate sustainability efforts and at first, things are going great! But after a while, the ideas don’t come so easily, team members get engaged with other activities, and the committee starts to break down. Or, maybe team members are still diligently showing up for each meeting but you (or they) feel discouraged about how to best focus their interest and efforts. Summer poses a challenge because many school staff are off, so efforts tend to fall to the wayside.

Let us help solve these problems with this School Green Team plan!


One good place to begin is by creating an annual calendar. Give each month a single theme or event to give your meetings focus, and your Team a purpose. For a list of possible focus areas, click here to see a calendar of energy-related holidays.

Next, be sure that each member of the Green Team is assigned specific tasks and deadlines by which to complete those tasks. Examples might include:

  • Developing a reward and recognition program for buildings, teams, staff or students that demonstrate outstanding energy efficiency efforts
  • Reviewing and customizing energy-related employee or student communications – including emails, newsletters, posters, stickers or electronic signage
  • Reviewing IT technologies and exploring what IT-related energy strategies your school district should consider
  • Authoring articles for posting on the school blog or website, or for putting in school newsletters.

Another approach is to split your Green Team up into subcommittees. Consider these four categories as focus areas for your team.

  • Event planning and Recognition
  • Communications
  • Measurement and Verification (M&V)
  • Operations and Facilities

Be sure to keep your group meeting regularly, especially as you establish these new roles. Make time at each meeting for team members to “report out” to the rest of the group about their ideas and initiatives.


January: Create a communications calendar

Communications are a core part of any good sustainability plan. As the Green Team, it is your job to ensure that the people in your school district – and in your community – are informed, educated and aware of your energy conservation efforts, goals and achievements. Consider the following:

  • What types of communications will you send this year?

o   Newsletters, email blasts, student newspaper, community press releases, internal communications, quick tips via pay stubs, the intranet, Twitter, etc.

o   Who will write them?

o   Who will send them/how will they be distributed?

  • Choose a start date – when will the first communication go out?
  • Set the dates for each communication to go out through the end of the calendar year
  • Brainstorm topics, tips or ideas. Be sure to have one idea per date you have put on the calendar. So, if you are doing monthly newsletters – be sure to have 12 topics.
  • Don’t forget about sharing your results! We recommend providing progress updates at least quarterly.
  • Be sure you are communicating with staff, students and the community!






February: Start a recycling program

If you don’t already have a recycling program in your school district – start one! Begin by touching base with your building operations or health and safety department. These folks may already have some ideas! Many communities and trash haulers offer resources to help you get started. Begin by finding out whether or not recycling is picked up by your waste management service. If it is, ask if your pick up is single sort or multiple sort. You might be surprised to find out that it doesn’t cost more to recycle, since you end up reducing the volume of trash that goes into the garbage. If recycling isn’t picked up by your hauler, set up an in-house recycling program by asking for a volunteer each week to empty recycling bins and properly dispose of the waste. A staff member and/or student group could be in charge of this at each building! Some communities have recycling centers that will pay you for your aluminum or glass – perhaps this small monetary reward could be kept by the group or school building each week!

Already have a recycling program? Use this month to raise awareness about it and be sure everyone in your district is recycling. Or – take it a step further and start composting or recycling organic materials. Many of the schools we work with have partnerships with local farmers, where their food waste is repurposed as animal feed. Some trash haulers will have compost bins and will even pick up your organic waste for you!


Check back next week to find out what your school’s Green Team can focus on for March and April!



Mar 26

Top 5 Low and No Cost Tips to Reduce Your School Pool’s Energy Use

Swimming pools are common in schools. They are also a major consumer of energy – one that often goes overlooked when thinking about how to reduce energy use.

Pools can be expensive to maintain, and there are many choices when it comes to the type of cleaning, heating and general care that are available. If your school district houses a pool, be sure you are getting the most bang for your buck by utilizing these low and no cost energy-saving tips, from CLASS 5 Energy:

  1. Cover pools when not in use to reduce water and chemical loss due to normal evaporation
  2. Repair swimming pool leaks right away – even small leaks can waste thousands of gallons of water per year
  3. Reduce pool water temperature by 2°. The cooler the water, the less evaporation will occur
  4. Shut down fountains and waterfalls whenever pool is closed
  5. Install control devices such as Vending Misers or other timers.

These simple low and no cost changes can make a big difference in the cost of maintaining your pool. When it comes to reducing energy and saving money – each piece of your building can contribute!

Mar 12

4 Low and No Cost Energy Saving Techniques for School Districts


Low and no cost energy saving techniques don’t just involve turning off lights and changing the thermostat – communication and engagement are also key components is getting people in your school district to save energy! Instead of just send an email or making an announcement, why not consider having a building or district wide event in order to raise awareness?

If you are looking to breathe some new life into energy efficiency efforts, here are 4 techniques to kick off low and not cost energy savings in your school district!

  1. Plan an organization-wide, energy-focused event. When we plan kick-off events, we like to include something fun and interactive. Hands-on activities such as a human power generator help bring energy to life. Other things you can do include: creating a trivia game about how energy is used in your facilities; asking people for comments, suggestions or ideas related to energy – and giving anyone who contributes a small token of thanks; or holding an awards ceremony to recognize people in your organization who have contributed to the energy saving effort.
  2. Host an energy-free breakfast or lunch. Nothing brings a group of people together, or gets them more interested in a topic, than free food! Walk the walk by hosting a green, energy-free and waste-free event. Serve foods that don’t require any energy to prep or serve, such as no-bake desserts, raw salads, no-cook foods and snacks like crackers, nuts and dried fruits. Be sure to serve everything on reusable tableware – no disposable paper or plastic plates, forks and cups! Make pitchers of lemonade or sun tea, and don’t just provide trash cans – provide recycling and compost containers as well!
  3. Hold a “Lunch-n-Learn.” This type of event can take your energy-free meal to the next level by also providing a structured lesson or lecture. Invite folks to grab a plate of food and then sit down to learn about an energy-related topic. Some fun ideas might include: “How to Save Energy at Your Desk” or “How to Read Your Utility Bill.”.
  4. Plan an Energy Fair. This is an especially great idea for K-12 schools or colleges. Classrooms, students or staff choose an energy-related topic and create informational posters and projects to bring the topic to life. Encourage people to show what they’ve done already to conserve energy, as well as to explore creative new ideas to save energy in the future. Invite the community into your school to visit and learn all about your efforts.

Mar 02

School Shut Down Tips for Saving Energy Over Winter, Spring or Summer Break

Most schools shut down for an extended period for winter, spring and summer breaks. When your buildings are unoccupied for a week or longer, this is a great time to bank some major savings on energy use! Making some small adjustments to your operations, and being sure that classrooms and offices are buttoned up tight will ensure that you aren’t wasting dollars on empty buildings.

Here are some things you should be sure are done before the last staff member leaves for break…for a full shut down checklist, print this PDF: SEE_Shutdown_Checklist


  • Set back building temperatures to 50°
  • Be sure all lights are off district wide
  • Completely shut down all electronics district wide
  • Consolidate refrigerators and unplugged empty ones
  • Unplug any large appliances that will not be affected over the break (vending machines, ovens, coffee makers, printers, microwaves)
  • Turn off (or down) water heaters and pumps
  • Be sure all windows, blinds and shades are shut


Everyone can do their part to be sure that your buildings are secure, safe and saving energy over the long break. Ask everyone to do a final check of their space before they leave, and include the shut down checklist on your building operations “closing procedures”.


Enjoy your break!







image courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

Feb 25

4 Things Schools Need To Know About Their Utility Bill

4-things-schools-need-to-know-about-utility-bill-mistakesWe find mistakes, overages, mis-charges and just plain poor math on commercial utility bills all of the time.  When we set up an account for a Schools for Energy Efficiency client, we scrutinize each of their electrical and natural gas bills, and far too often we find that there is money to be saved simply by better understanding what they are being charged for.  Commercial bills are different from household bills, and if the person paying yours hasn’t done a review of your utilities recently, one should be done today.

Here are 4 things schools need to know about their utility bill:

1.     Non-profit organizations such as schools should not be charged sales tax.  If your organization is tax-exempt, but you have been paying tax on your electric or gas bill, you have may have hundreds, or thousands, of dollars in refunds entitled to you.   If you have a tax exempt status, review your bills for a tax line.  If you are being charged, you have the right to appeal and be refunded.

2.     Commercial businesses get charged for electric demand.  This is a charge that is only found on business accounts, so if you look for it on your residential electricity bills, you won’t find it.    Basically, since electricity can’t be easily stored, utility companies must be ready at any time to supply you with as much electricity as you need.  You pay for this availability through a “demand” charge.  Demand measures your peak use throughout each billing period, and the more you use, the more you pay.  By reducing your demand, you can greatly reduce your monthly electric bill.

3.     Work with your utility representative to check the rate schedules that they offer, and make sure you are on the right one.  Although they can be difficult to understand, you may find an opportunity to switch and save.  For example, your utilities may offer a “time of day” rate or curtailment discounts.  Electric companies may offer curtailment discounts to large buildings in order to help conserve energy in times of extreme use.  Generally, these happen during times of extreme heat, when many more people are using electricity for cooling purposes.  If your organization is eligible for curtailment, you agree to reduce energy use during times of high need in exchange for a break on your rates.  This may mean changing the temperature on your AC, turning out some lights or shutting down large equipment for a short period of time in order to allow that electricity to be allocated somewhere else.

Natural gas companies may offer curtailment discounts too .  For example, if you have a boiler that can run on both natural gas and fuel oil, you may be eligible for a discount from your natural gas company if you are willing to switch to fuel oil during very cold days when the supply can’t keep up with the demand. 

4.    Be sure that the meter numbers on your utility bills match up with the meter numbers at your building.  Do this by field checking your meter numbers to be sure they match up with your bills.  Meters break, meters get changed, buildings are bought and sold – if your utility provider has incorrect meter numbers associated with your bill, you may be paying for energy you aren’t even using, or paying a fee for a meter that isn’t even being used.  Each year, designate someone to locate each of your meters, ensure they are working properly and that the numbers match up.  If you find one that is wrong, contact your utility provider immediately and be sure it’s corrected.

Bottom line – make the utility company your friend!  If something shows up on your bill that doesn’t look quite right, pick up the phone and call them.  Make sure you understand each line item of your bills so that you can learn how to reduce use and dollars.  And finally – do a thorough review of your rate schedules annually.  If your utility companies have made any change to their rates, you may find that there are other options available that can save you money.

Feb 18

Host an Energy Carnival at Your School This Year!

Because K-12 schools are our biggest client base, we are always looking for fun and creative ways to engage the students in energy efficiency, as well as the staff.

Most of the time our program focuses on the adults – what they can do each and every day, as part of their normal routine, to save energy and money for their school. But we also know that bringing in the students is something that schools want to do…and it helps a district reap even bigger rewards when the kids are on board just as much as the adults!

Energy-related events are a great way to engage and educate people about how to conserve energy. National Energy Awareness Month in October and Earth Day in April are two great times of year to plan events around – and why not have an Energy Carnival? Not only will the fun and games get people excited about energy efficiency, but kids and adults can participate in the planning, running and enjoying of the games!

Consider inviting the community to attend your Energy Carnival. Proceeds can go to funding an energy efficiency project for your school – what a great way to fundraise for energy efficiency!

To get started, here are some fun ideas to incorporate into your Energy Carnival:ID-100155673

  • Set up a Human Power Generator or Energy Bike for people to get moving and actually feel how much energy it takes to power different household items
  • Create a recycle relay or sorting game. Ask game players to sort items into: rubbish (trash), reuse (donate) or recycle.
  • Serve energy-free treats, and have a no-bake cake walk. Bonus points for using local, organic ingredients!

For more great ideas and help planning, here are two different guides from the NEED project:

Energy Carnival 1

Energy Carnival 2

Feb 04

When Should my School District Include a Behavior Program in our Energy Conservation Efforts?

When we meet with potential school district clients, we ask them to tell us about their organizational energy conservation efforts in the past 3-5 years. Almost everyone we meet with has done something to improve their energy efficiency: from replacing old light bulbs with newer, more energy efficient bulbs to upgrading a majority of their facilities and equipment. Some have recently started working with an Energy Services Company (ESCO) while others are just ending a long-term relationship with an ESCO or other energy consultant.logoRefreshWebsite


However, very few districts we meet with have included behavior in their conservation efforts.


Replacing lighting systems, temperature control systems or HVAC systems with more energy efficient ones should be the cornerstone of any school district’s energy plan. Because more than half of the energy used in commercial buildings goes to lighting, heating and cooling, these upgrades can have a significant, positive impact on your utility bill. Therefore, if you are not including behavior in your energy conservation mix, you are missing opportunities to save.


But when is the best time to include a behavior program in your energy-saving efforts?


Perhaps it’s your first step – bringing in a low cost, high ROI behavior program to jump start energy and cost savings and begin shifting the culture toward energy conservation.


Behavior could also be brought it somewhere in the middle – even in conjunction with an ESCO. Behavioral strategies compliment the technical strategies offered by most ESCOs and allow you to take full advantage of the positive changes being made by educating employees on how to make wise choices when it comes to energy.


It could also be that behavior is the final piece to your energy plan puzzle. You’ve invested in building and asset upgrades, you’ve worked with ESCOs or other performance contractors and now you want an internal program to help ensure your energy savings continue into the foreseeable future.


No matter what point you are at – behavior programs work. At CLASS 5 Energy, we know that there is no “one size fits all” solution to energy conservation and programming. That’s why we work to provide support at all levels.


Contact us today to find out more about how behavior fits into where you are at right now!

Jan 26

Do This, Not That – How to Save Energy at School

There seems to be a lot of conflicting information out there when it comes to being energy efficient. Often do-this-not-that-schoolwhen we begin talking about energy conserving behaviors, people say to us “But I heard that you weren’t supposed to do that!” or “But I was always taught to do it this way…”

Becoming more energy efficient is a quick and easy way for schools to manage one of the biggest expenses in their district – but only if they have the right info! Let us help you understand what to do, and what not to do, to truly save energy every day!


Read the rest of this entry »

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