A Bright Idea – Reducing Carbon Footprint

During a 10th grade Civics class on “Creating Sustainable Communities,” students decided to calculate their school’s contribution to global warming. During a Green School audit, the students discovered waste from inefficient windows, lights and appliances routinely left on, and inconsistent use of efficient light bulbs. Students decided to focus their research on lighting after determining that changes there would do most to reduce the school’s carbon footprint.

The students began by counting all the school’s light bulbs and identifying which were energy-efficient. They assessed which rooms could use motion-detector switches. After completing their research, the students sought advice from Efficiency Vermont and the Vermont Energy Education Program.

The students decided to approach the school board and recommend new energy-efficient lights/fixtures and motion-detector switches for their school. In drafting their proposal, the students carefully considered both up-front costs and long-term savings for the school and taxpayers. The students estimated that it would cost approximately $70,000 to replace the school’s 1,602 fluorescent lights and install motion-detector switches, but that the school would save upwards of $10,000 a year in energy and maintenance costs. In addition, the school would reduce its carbon emissions by 122,000 pounds—the equivalent to getting 1,770 SUV drivers to switch to hybrid cars!

The school board was so impressed with the students’ proposal that they worked with the students to finalize the plan and budget for the project, which will be implemented in the summer of 2008. Andy Shapiro from Vermont Energy Education praised the student’s work saying, “I’ve done a number of Green School projects in the state, and I don’t know of anywhere kids have taken it to this level.”