Most of the attention (and government money) these days is going to alternative fuel sources such as solar, wind, and biomass. Alternative fuel is a great focus and a great investment. As a nation, we must push ahead and become independent of fossil fuels and other less sustainable forms.�However, what do we accomplish when we create alternative fuels� AND continue to be wasteful?�
The missing piece, so often ignored is energy conservation.� Wikipedia defines this term as the practice of decreasing the quantity�used. It may be achieved through efficient use resulting in a decreased need. Conservation in conjunction with alternative fuel will ultimately yield the best results.�
Washington Elementary School District (WESD) in North Phoenix, Arizona agreed to design and implement a comprehensive conservation program in spring, 2008. WESD is a school district comprised of 32 elementary (K-8) campuses, 3 administrative campuses and 23,500 students. Like many other school districts in Arizona and around the country, WESD was facing large cuts in funding. There were not funds to use in putting alternative fuel sources such as solar on buildings, in building new structures or in constructing large retrofits of existing buildings. The conservation program they were talking about implementing focused almost exclusively on changing habits; changing the building culture to embrace energy conservation. The governing board and superintendent believed that rather than mandating conservation, more could be gained by empowering individual school campuses to create their own plans and by involving students, staff, parents and the entire school community in implementation.�
Washington Elementary School District began the work by benchmarking each campus to determine the level of efficiency of all buildings at the start of the program. Each campus received a rating from 1 to 100 with 100 being a perfectly energy efficient building and a 1 being the very opposite. The District used the EnergyStar Portfolio Manager to benchmark buildings which is a free service available to anyone. Thereafter, the District drafted an energy policy, standards, and a format for the plans that would be created on each campus. The District provided resources and consultation for each campus so that they could receive education on energy conservation best practices and support in determining the best ways their school could conserve. In addition, each school campus was encouraged to create a school energy committee. Schools were encouraged to implement conservation into their school curriculum and involve students in the process. A District Green Committee was created comprised of District representatives and community members.�
A fiscal year 2008-2009 10% conservation goal was adopted across the District which included a 10% reduction in electric usage; 10% reduction in natural gas usage; 10% reduction in water usage; 10% reduction in sold waste. Usage statistics were compiled monthly and made public. Competition between schools developed. An ever increasing awareness of energy usage evolved. The District hired a program advocate to support the program and document results.�
Washington Elementary School District is eight months into their conservation program and their success has gone far beyond what anyone could have imagined. The District is on target to save over $700,000 in utility costs in fiscal year 2008-2009.
$700,000 in conservation efforts resulting not from alternative fuels, new construction, or massive building retrofits. $700,000 in savings resulting from increased awareness, changing habits, embracing a culture of conservation, and regular measurement of the electrical, natural gas, water and waste used from month to month.
Sometimes the solutions to our problems are not big and sexy. Sometimes the solutions to our problems come from doing what is simple and right in the first place: shutting off lights, closing doors, controlling thermostats, putting buildings into unoccupied mode when not in use, sealing leaks, recycling and all of the little things.
Energy conservation in conjunction with alternative fuel sources is still the best solution we have. Do not forget its importance in your organization!
Sue Pierce is the owner of Pierce and Associates, an energy planning and green facility consulting business that specializes in working with K-12 school districts wanting to create energy efficient and green sustainable environments for students. On a more personal level, she is married to Dean (for 33 years but who is counting!); a mother of four amazing sons; a mother-in-law to one (so far) adorable daughter-in-law; a new grandmother to one grandson (Gavin I love you!) and a woman with a passion for living life in a green organic and sustainable way. She pursues green living to both teach others and to continue to learn herself! Go Green! Live Sustainably! You can connect with Sue by going to her newest website at http://www.goinggreenmarketplace.com or her energy business web site at http://www.pierceandassociatescompany.com