Reading, writing and energy efficiency

Just 116 schools from 22 states managed to save more than 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity in just four weeks, as part of the 2012 Green Cup Challenge.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

More than 30 percent. That's the amount of electricity that students at St.. Andrew's School in Florida managed to save during the four-week long 2012 Green Cup Challenge.

This year's challenge, the fifth since the program was launched to encourage energy conservation among K-12 schools, resulted in a collective reduction of 1.031 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, according to the program directory Katy Perry. That translates into a reduction of almost 1.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, the organization reported.

Mind you, certain areas of the country have had a very mild winter, but the challenge is run over what is usually a pretty extreme period for weather, from January 18 to February 15 this year.

The program encourages schools to compete to save the most electricity. The actions taken are usually pretty simply, the challenge organizers said. Measures such as turning off lights in unused classrooms, powering down computers or office machines overnight, adjusting the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems to adjust temperatures a few degrees warmer or cooler (depending on the climate) and replacing old equipment that is less than energy-efficient. Schools were awarded based on their actual results, as well as on their ability to encourage participate through videos like this one from Marist School in Atlanta ("So Fresh and So Green"):

Aside from St. Andrew's School in Florida, there were XX schools that managed double-digit cuts in electricity. (The percentage given is the overall reduction in energy consumption.)

St Stephen's and St. Agnes School (Virginia) - 28 percent The Hill School (Virginia) - 23.4 percent The Harvard-Westlake School (California) - 22.1 percent The Canterbury School (North Carolina) - 18 percent The Turning Point School (California) - 17.3 percent The Belmont Hill School (Massachusetts) - 17.4 percent The White Mountain School (New Hampshire) - 15.8 percent The Stoneleigh-Burnham School (Massachusetts) - 13.6 percent Sophia Academy (Georgia) - 12.7 percent Westminster Schools (Georgia) - 12.4 percent Cary Academy (North Carolina) - 11.3 percent The Evergreen School (Washington) - 12.5 percent Phillips Academy (Massachusetts) - 10.9 percent The Pennington School (New Jersey) - 10 percent

I'm not sure whether it surprises me that many of the schools that managed these savings were private or independent organizations, which might have found it easier to participate. After all there are more than 132,600 schools in the United States.

Politically speaking, it probably is much harder to rally public schools behind programs like this, since they are beholden to certain municipal agendas. Although I can't see how saving money on electricity with some very simple measures or behavioral changes would be counter to the ideals of any town trying to make sure of its education budget actually goes into education. Who knows, maybe the kids involved with these programs will find a way to make a difference in "the system" five to 10 years from now when they finish college?

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