Energy, Cost Savings, and Curriculum

By Sean Cavanagh — September 03, 2009 1 min read
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As schools swing back into session, the Environmental Protection Agency, through its “Energy Star” program, is encouraging district leaders to consider energy-efficiency measures—touting them as steps that could be used to save teacher jobs and cover other costs. They’re also inviting schools to incorporate more lessons about energy usage into school curriculum.

Under the “Teach Kids,” link on this site, the Energy Star program has created resources for students, parents, and teachers, which include links for energy-related vocabulary terms (everything from “carbon footprint” to “photovoltaic cells” ), facts, lesson plans, and games that can be played at home and school. Energy Star is a joint effort run by the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The EPA is also making a broader case for energy efficiency in schools. Among the agency’s arguments: Districts spend $8 billion annually on heating, cooling, lighting, and energy-related costs, more than the amount spent on textbooks and computers combined. The agency also cites the specific savings raked in by school systems around the country, including Oregon’s Gresham-Barlow district. That district cut energy savings by 48 percent, paring $1.3 million in costs—an amount equal to 24 full-time teachers’ salaries, the EPA says. Over three years, the Council Rock school district in Pennsylvania cut $4.7 million in energy costs, the agency says.

The EPA would like to see more districts join its Energy Star Challenge, a pledge to reduce energy costs. About 2,000 schools have earned the agency’s “Energy Star” label for superior energy efficiency so far.

If you’re in a school district that has staggered under the weight of high energy bills, what options are you considering to reduce them? What are the barriers to making changes to your energy usage?

Photo of solar panels being installed on Walden III Middle and High School in Racine, Wis., by Mark Hertzberg/Journal Times/AP.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.