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What would you say if you were told that your school district could save $11 million over five years or save 26 percent of your annual energy cost without spending a dime on new equipment, energy consultants, or building energy management systems?
You might think that sounds implausible, but at Douglas County Schools in Colorado, they know it's true because they've done exactly that. And they accomplished it by tapping into a resource that every school has — students.
Nearly every school district in the nation is facing budget cuts of one kind or another, and many are looking to save on expenses by cutting back on utility bills. But implementing more comprehensive energy savings measures often requires tapping into already strapped or non-existent capital budgets. So, some districts are getting creative and looking for energy savings through occupant engagement initiatives, and, at districts like Douglas County, finding that engaged students are also highly effective facilitators of energy savings.
Your New Energy Management Team
In the past, top-down approaches to energy efficiency, for which policies were handed down to teachers to be implemented in classrooms, often produced only minor savings. These campaigns rarely resulted in the kind of behavioral change needed to produce savings that impact utilities budgets, are durable and lasting, and improve from year to year. As an alternative, allowing students to champion energy efficiency initiatives provides new avenues for learning about sustainability while at the same time realizing surprisingly substantial energy savings.
These initiatives are guided by staff, but rely mostly on the creativity and energy of students for implementation. They become the eyes and ears of the school, looking for opportunities in every corner. Empowering and incentivizing students in this way has proven effective in generating far greater savings than administration-initiated programs. The reason for this is simple: when students have ownership of an idea they are highly creative, dedicated, and engaged in seeing it through.
— Ben Stanley and Dan LeBlanc
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