Zerofootprint challenges schools to reduce carbon impact

Latest challenge will let your K-12 alma mater pit carbon reduction activities against the progress of up to three different rivals.

Really have it in for your cross-town K-12 rival? Now your public school can take on other schools in your community -- or across the country-- in another sort of competition: a Zerofootprint Challenge that will see which of you can cut your carbon footprint and energy consumption the most over the course of a year.

Here's how it works, school principals or teachers that are interested in participating need to submit an application for their "Green Team." Once they get the green light to participate, Zerofootprint Software will grant the school access to its Zerofootprint application, an online service that will let students, teachers and administration track their environmental activities and the associated impact on the school's carbon footprint. Your progress against your benchmark -- an initial reading of heating, electricity and water bills for the past year -- gets compared with the ones you've challenged (up to three others) and the one that cuts their footprint the most (percentage-wise) during the "Race to Reduce" will be the victor.

Zerofootprint has actually built a database of information about more than 1,000 schools already starting with the public schools in Toronto where it is based and working out from there with the most readily available energy consumption and efficiency information; the contest has been operating in a beta mode for the past two months, according to Ron Dembo, Zerofootprint's CEO.

For example, the Maurice Cody Public School in Toronto is striving for a carbon impact goal of 120 kilograms per student, down from 155 kilograms.

The goal is to pull in 10,000 schools within the first year of the competition as participants.

Aside from the Zerofootprint application itself, there is a social networking element through Facebook, where you can view this video for more information.

So, what do you get if you "win" your competition? Brag rights for sure, plus Zerofootprint is working with a number of corporate sponsors -- the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation is one public supporter already -- with the hope that it might be able to award some sort of green investment, such as a solar installation at the winning school, according to Dembo. But no firm details on that, yet.

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