Saving Money With Green Schools Technology

By Naomi Dillon

The good news: American households are not the biggest producers of municipal waste. The bad news: We’re a close second. Food scraps, packaging, grass clippings, furniture, and appliances all contributed to more than 250 million tons of trash collected in 2010, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

And yet that’s nothing compared to the money schools throw down the drain on utility and energy bills through inefficient and careless use. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates school districts waste as much as a third of the $12 billion they spend annually on energy, which incidentally is the second largest line item in most district budgets, behind payroll.

Thanks (or no thanks) to a prolonged economic downturn, educators are scrutinizing figures that once were considered fixed costs, taking large and small measures to make sure they get the most bang for their buck. In a word, schools are going green.

Old standbys like recycling programs and conservation initiatives remain at the heart of these efforts, but often with a twist and a boost from 21st century tools. Shutting off lights in empty rooms becomes a snap with occupancy sensors. Regulating building temperature is streamlined with automated controls.

Some call it green technology; others call it clean technology. Still others place it under the banner of high-performance operations, or the even more wide-ranging topic of sustainability.

We won’t delve into the differences among these terms, focusing instead on what brings them all together -- a recognition and appreciation of the scarcity of natural and financial resources. In short, it’s a modern-day version of that iconic slogan: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. And increasingly, educators are heeding that message.

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