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Back to School Energy Consumption

image credit: ID 152649225 © Yevhenii Plutov |

Students are going back to school but few are relying on hard-copy books.  Instead, electronic devices carry textbooks and each device requires power.  More importantly, the schools require power and a lot of it.

  • School districts are major sources of energy consumption. According to Climate Parents’ estimates, K-12 schools emit as much greenhouse gas altogether each year as 18 coal-fired power plants.
  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency, K-12 school districts spend $8 billion each year out of their general operating budgets on energy—it’s their second biggest expense after salaries.
  • Energy efficiency measures alone could save school districts an estimated $2 billion per year.

The Department of Education surveyed energy use in schools because of the challenges that energy prices have on their budget.  They did, however, learn details about consumption and the problems specific to schools.  The volatility of energy prices is important to school districts because of the amount of energy needed for day-to-day operations. Another important fact to consider is that districts often have older facilities that are not especially energy efficient.  The average age of public school buildings is nearly 40 years old.  The Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that schools are larger than the average commercial building and have large auditoriums and gymnasiums that are hard to heat and cool.  School districts also are vulnerable to rapid increases in energy prices and budgets cannot be quickly altered mid-school year.  This forces school districts to decide to do one task over another.  With school back in session questions about conservation, consumption and carbon emissions are coming to the fore.  Parents and teachers are not the only ones taking notice.  Students are getting involved.  High school junior, Lucas Lajeunesse and a friend, were discussing climate change and decided it was time to take action.  “We were just hanging out, and we came up with the idea that we should change our school to renewable…I was just trying to think of solutions for how I could make a difference,” he said.  He drafted a petition and with some unexpected help from recent graduates the brainstorming began on how to switch the school district to clean energy.   Through a Sierra Club email list, they learned about Climate Parents and the 100 Percent Clean Energy School Districts campaign.  Lajeunesse’s school district is now part of the national campaign on track to pass a resolution in October.  Lucas Lajeunesse concluded, “I think it's really important that everybody knows that no matter who you are, you can make a huge difference."

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