School districts participating in an Education Dept. conservation recognition program are reaping huge savings as they update their operations to make them more ‘green,’ or environmentally conscious.
These schools are the most recent class of ED Green Ribbon Schools (GRS) honorees; 48 schools were recognized for their exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, promote better health and ensure effective environmental education. The honorees include 39 public schools (with 10 early learning programs, three charter schools, a magnet school, and three career-technical schools) and nine private schools, serving various grade levels.
The awards carry no cash value, but ED it touting how the winners are improving their bottom line be becoming more environmentally friendly.
School Save Big
For example, the Minnesota Waconia Public School system saved big on utilities as a result of its GRS conservation initiatives. The district qualified for $46,000 in energy rebates and it is saving an estimated $117,000 in utility and operations costs annually as a direct result of the GRS improvements. Plus, the district also saves over 1.2 million gallons of water, nearly one million kilowatt hours of electricity, and over 17,000 therms of gas annually, says Richard Scott, director of Grants & Development at Waconia Public Schools.
“Providing safe, healthy and sustainable learning spaces does not have to be an expensive choice,” Scott says, “but it does require collaboration, creative problem solving and a shared vision to do what is right for students, staff, community and the planet.”
The district recently partnered with the City of Waconia and Carver County to secure a grant from the Minnesota Board of Water & Soil Resources to install a water reuse system to capture untreated storm water and reduce pollutants entering Burandt Lake adjacent to Bayview Elementary. This project combined with other water quality initiatives will result in Burandt Lake being “delisted” from the State Impaired Waters list within five years. The collected water is also used to irrigate nearby athletic fields.
The most recent collaborative project is with Minnesota Dept. of Commerce, Xcel Energy, JJR Power, and Innovative Power Systems to install solar panels on the high school gymnasium. These solar panels will produce 50,000 kilowatt-hours of energy — or about 5% of total annual energy usage at Waconia High School – without costing the district a dime for their installation. JJR Power will provide the capital to install the system. It is financed through a combination of the “Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program,” a federal tax credit and the execution of a 15-year Power Purchase Agreement, Scott says.
The next round of GRS awards is to open soon; the deadline for nominations is Feb. 1.