Wednesday, September 18, 2013

U.S. Schools Going Green to Save Green

students taking on green initiativesGoing green is one of the best ways to sustain a healthy and pleasant work environment. This also applies to students as well.  It is estimated that 20% of Americans go to school every day and are targets of its energy, water and resource efficiency. It is crucial to implement effective and safe guidelines and practices so students can get the most out of their education.

However, because of the economic state and budget costs, schools all over the country have been struggling with basic maintenance and repair costs, let alone trying to justify allocating funds towards improving energy efficiency.  What many people don't realize, however, is that going green and conserving energy actually helps schools save money and time in the long run. Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools, part of the USGBC, explains, "This is something you can't afford not to do. A green school … is actually one of the only opportunities, in a moment when budgets are already stretched so thin, to be able to unearth funds that are available for the taking."

Loveland High School in Ohio saved $350,000 in one year by installing motion sensors on light fixtures and swapping out light bulbs for more energy-efficient models. Loveland was one of 26 U.S. high schools recognized as a Green Ribbon School by the Department of Education and the Center for Green Schools. In total, 78 schools—50 percent of which serve high poverty areas—were honored for their commitment to the environment.

Officials at another Green Ribbon School, Gladstone High School in Oregon, created a Green School Club, which helped save $250 per month from the school's electrical costs by conducting energy audits. Some schools even negotiate with their boards to retain a portion of the savings generated by their green teams.

A new elementary school in Lexington, Kentucky opened this year with several green features; school lighting is amplified by light from solar tubes and the school's toilets are flushed with collected rainwater. These are great ways to help the environment and allow students to perform better academically and stay healthy.

New York has also put in their efforts for a greener education. Staten Island's newest and greenest elementary school, PS 62, will be the first net zero energy school in New York City. The sleek building is covered with a photovoltaic skin able to generate enough power to sustain the school. The school is set to open in the fall of 2015 to 444 students. Additionally, the school is designed with a solar thermal system and efficient heating and cooling equipment to minimize energy use and cost.

Secondary education schools are also leading the way in going green, including these top-ten university leaders recently recognized by the Sierra Club:
  1. University of Connecticut
  2. Dickinson College
  3. University of California, Irvine
  4. University of California, Davis
  5. Cornell University 
  6. Green Mountain College
  7. Stanford University
  8. Georgia Institute of Technology
  9. American University
  10. University of California, Santa Barbara
Efforts are also being seen inside the classroom to help educate students on environmental issues and sustainable practices. The Maryland State Board of Education enacted a policy in 2011 that requires all Maryland high school students to be “environmentally literate” before they graduate. The measure is also being considered for expansion on a national scale. 


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