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Celebrating Sustainability in Our Schools

Learn How Schools Save Energy, Money

Article Date: Apr 23, 2018


From irrigation controls to LED lighting and from new boilers to chemical-free cleaning, Bend-La Pine Schools is engaged in numerous efforts to make schools more sustainable. This week we are celebrating sustainability in our schools in honor of Earth Day.

“We are proud of how our schools manage resources, and how our district continues to become more energy-efficient and sustainable,” said Superintendent Shay Mikalson. “Being sustainable is not only the right thing to do, it also saves the school district money that we are then able to invest back into teaching and learning.”

Over time, energy management programs and equipment upgrades have saved more than $1 million in gas and electric bills, according to Mike Tiller, Executive Director of Facilities.

Highlights of these efforts include:

  • Propane: Nearly half of school buses use propane fuel, which results in significant cost savings as well as greatly reduced emissions.
  • Lighting: Exterior lights at five schools have been updated to LED lights thanks to support from Energy Trust of Oregon and the Oregon Department of Energy. Five more sites will be switched to LED this year. (LED lights reduce energy usage and costs.) Additionally, replacing old, inefficient lighting systems with electronic ballasts and T8 lamps has saved hundreds of thousands in lighting costs over the past two decades.
  • HVAC and heating: Our schools are updating our HVAC controls to allow them to be more efficient and save energy. We have also replaced inefficient boilers at several schools.
  • Irrigation: All of our irrigation is run on remote controls that allow the district to control start and stop times and water grass more efficiently and save water (and not water while it’s raining.)
  • Education: We partner with the Environmental Center and work closely with Jackie Wilson, sustainability education director, to teach students about sustainability. She helps teachers develop curriculum and supports Green Teams at many schools. These student groups focus on increasing recycling, reducing food waste and other school-based efforts.
  • Smart cleaning: 12 of our schools currently use ionized water to clean (rather than using chemical cleaner.) We make this sanitizing product ourselves using a generator and it saves $20,000 a year. Plans are underway to purchase another generator and have all schools using the ionized water soon. Our custodial staff also use microfiber mops instead of cloth. These require less chemical and less effort, saving money.
  • Scratch cooking: For school meals, we make as much as possible from scratch, from baked goods to soups. This saves on packing materials and reduces costs. We also cook food in batches to meet demands of students and reduce food waste.
  • New construction: Newly constructed facilities are built with energy efficiency in mind.
  • Bond projects: The 2017 construction bond funds the replacement of leaking roofs and windows, and upgrades to heating, ventilation, electrical and plumbing systems. The bond provides money-saving energy improvements to boilers, HVAC and lighting systems to many of schools and facilities. See details about the bond.

Program highlight:

One new program Jackie Wilson and the custodial team helped create this year is the Golden Dustpan award. At several schools in the district, students are encouraged at the end of each day to pick up the pencils, pens and other debris on the classroom floor. At one school, students picked up more than 100 pencils on the floor in one day. The classroom with the tidiest classroom is awarded the Golden Dustpan.

This program has many benefits including: It encourages students to pick up after themselves, it saves parents money in purchasing new school supplies, it reduces the amount of trash and it saves time and energy for the custodians (imagine how much time it would take to bend down and pick up more than 100 pencils in one day.)

“This is a great example of how our schools teach students to be thriving citizens and excellent stewards for the world around them,” said Mikalson.