Effective school energy conservation programs require teacher, staff buy-in
- Utilities are often the second highest expense of a school district after employee salaries, and administrators must convince faculty and staff of the value and benefit of launching energy conservation efforts to see long-term success and sustainability, District Administration reports.
- Leaders must also continue to promote these initiatives through school communication efforts beyond the initial push, keeping faculty and staff informed of their success and the costs being saved as a result.
- Finally, monitoring classrooms and workspaces for compliance can keep everyone on track and allow teachers and staff members to see how seriously the initiative is being treated.
School district leaders usually have little control over how much money comes into the district, and many costs are also either fixed or outside of their control. However, energy costs are one area districts can focus on controlling.
According to a report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, districts spend approximately $8 billion annually nationwide on energy costs. “An estimated $2 billion of that total can be saved by improving energy efficiency in K-12 schools, an amount equivalent to the cost of nearly 40 million new textbooks,” the report states.
Energy audits can help schools see where investments in upgraded equipment might help with energy savings, especially in older schools. As districts build new schools, energy costs should also be a major factor in construction decisions. Schools can also work with energy companies and through energy contracting programs to find savings that can be used for educational needs. Other resources are available to help schools find ways to conserve energy and save money.
However, schools may not always see the total “projected savings.” A recent report cited in Forbes magazine revealed that upgrades in California schools did lower average energy consumption by 3%, but only saved schools about 24% of the projected savings. Some investment paid off better than others, according to the report: Lighting upgrades achieved 49% of the projected savings, and improvements related to heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) yielded 42% of expected savings.
Energy experts recommend several ways schools can save on energy costs, some of which require little outlay of funds. Energy savings programs work best when implemented not only by district officials, but also by teachers and students. Posting the results of energy savings encourages consistent implementation of these measures, as the Central Regional School District in Bayville, New Jersey, did when it saved $400,000 in two years as a result of its energy management and conservation plan. As the increase in the use of technology at schools is demanding more energy consumption, finding ways to conserve energy in other areas at school is especially important.
- District Administration Launching and sustaining an energy conservation program