Friends of sustainability and public schools,
The Sustainable Schools Coalition has been working hard the last few months to get our voice heard on behalf of practices that will help our environment as well as save money for our Seattle Public Schools.
- Check out our video that shows how the Seattle School District could practice some simple conservation steps to help our environment and save money.
- Send an email by August 8 to the School Board asking for follow-through on their conservation efforts (see below).
Meeting with Resource Conservation Staff June 16
As part of the their efforts to get public input on ways to improve the Seattle School District’s Resource Conservation Plan, two members of the District’s resource conservation staff met with members of our coalition on June 16. (Their plan is scheduled to be submitted for consideration to the School Board’s Operations Committee on August 16 ). Much of our discussion focused on ways to strengthen the District’s existing Energy Savings Award Program, which returns to individual schools a very small amount of money based on the resource conservation efforts which they undertook during the previous year.
Staff members’ ideas on how to strengthen the program focused on
- better ways to measure which schools are truly saving resource via conservation,
- directing more of the rewards from the program to those schools that are actually saving energy and money rather than just giving token amounts to schools that are not doing much to conserve, and
- allowing schools to use the money they generate by saving energy in a flexible way; for example, giving incentives for the staff who are taking charge of conservation efforts, paying for conservation improvements in the buildings or other ways the schools decide that would improve conservation.
We offered feedback that the ideas of the staff are excellent ones that would strengthen the efficient but very small Energy Savings Program. However, we argued that
- it is critical that the program receive more financial resources to give schools incentives to conserve. Currently, most of the savings that schools garner as a result of conservation efforts go back into the general budget. This gives schools little incentive to save.
- current plans to revamp the Energy Savings Program assume that the overall program maintains the same level of funding (about $85k). We argued that some of the savings accrued as a result of the suggested changes in the program should be plowed back into the program itself. School Board members have indicated to us that they support giving back at least some of the savings gained through greater conservation to individual schools to provide incentives for greater conservation.
- the program needs to have more visibility. School conservation efforts should be included in how schools are evaluated and should be revealed in the school “report card” recently initiated by the District.
- conservation efforts that schools undertake need to be acted on and measured more quickly to show teachers and students the results of their efforts.
More Public Testimony
Budget testimony on June 22 – Sustainable Schools Coalition testified before the Seattle School Board making the same points - that more incentives to save at the individual school level will mean more savings for schools and our environment. Many school Associated Student Body (ASB) programs that fund extra-curricular activities are starved for funds. We argued that the money that a school saves could be used for the ASB fund, which might encourage schools to do more to conserve and help our environment. We also encouraged Board members to watch this short video which demonstrates easy efforts to help our environment and save money – efforts which are mostly not taking place due to the lack of incentives and emphasis on conservation within our schools.
Operations Committee June 23 –The staff presented their ideas on how to strengthen the overall resource conservation efforts, including the Energy Savings Award Program. Our coalition is concerned that, though the plan as presented to the Operations Committee included many great ideas for promoting conservation, it did not include an overall increase in funding for conservation at the individual school level. There were some helpful comments from Director Kay Smith-Blum that we hope will encourage the School District to provide more resources and incentives for individual school conservation, but we believe that grassroots action is needed to make sure this happens (see action step below).
Take Action: Help Save Our Environment and Save Money for Schools
The School Board has indicated general support for our ideas, including reinvesting dollars gained through conservation into local schools. The individual schools could in turn promote greater conservation via “Green Teams” and “conservation coaches.” The Board needs to hear from you soon to put these ideas into practice.
Send an email to your School Board representative (See District information) and to Peter Maier, Chair of the Operations Committee as well. Here here are some key talking points:
- Over the last four years the district has documented a $2 million savings from conserving energy. We could save much more but there is little incentive to do so and there is no one in charge of conservation at the individual school level.
- If we provide incentives to individual schools, there are lots of dollars and environmental benefits to be gained.
- Please make sure the Resource Conservation staff know that the Board strongly supports strengthening the District’s existing Energy Savings Award Program. Have the staff reinvest more of the savings obtained from conservation efforts into the program, so that incentives can be given to individual schools to save more. Ask the staff, in the plan they submit to the Operations Committee in August, to specifically include a revolving fund that uses conservation savings to expand the resources of the Energy Savings Award Program.
- We appreciate the effort the Board has made so far to voice support for conservation in our schools. Now is the time for action. Please do all you can to help save money and save our environment by providing greater incentives for conservation in our schools.