Schools start doing their part to protect environment

Kelly Evenson

Going green is not just something individual homeowners are doing.

Local cities and school districts are also finding ways to conserve energy, save money and protect the world’s natural resources at the same time.

These efforts include everything from recycling centers to equipping buildings with energy-efficient lighting. But as time goes on, most everyone agrees that “becoming more green” is where society is heading.

The Missouri Senate signed a bill this spring to require all schools in the state to adopt green cleaning programs. This makes Missouri the third state to do so, behind New York and Illinois.

According to the bill, beginning in the 2009-10 school year, school districts must establish a “green” cleaning policy that involves the use of environmentally sensitive cleaning products. This includes bathroom cleaners, carpet cleaners, general purpose and hard floor surface cleaners, glass, window and mirror cleaners, hand soaps and paper products.

The Independence and Blue Springs school districts have already started going in this direction. Independence Superintendent Jim Hinson said the district is trying to “go as green as possible” when it comes to purchasing supplies for the buildings.

Most area school districts have moved toward energy-efficient lighting and fixtures over the last few years in an effort to reduce energy consumption. These include the Blue Springs, Independence, Fort Osage, Oak Grove and Grain Valley school districts. These fixtures are high-efficiency and use up to a third less energy.

The Grain Valley School District is getting estimates as to the cost of moving to zone lighting. This system shuts off lights after a certain amount of time.

The Independence and Fort Osage school districts have lights on motion sensors. When there is little movement in a room or if there has been no movement over a period of time, lights shut off, thus conserving energy.

All area school districts place an emphasis on recycling. This includes high quantities of paper as well as plastic and aluminum. Some schools also have Paper Retriever bins, a recycling program through Abitibi. In these bins, newspaper, magazines, grocery bags and office paper can be recycled, the proceeds go back to the school.

“We, ourselves, recycle a large amount of paper every month,” Hinson said. “It has become a concerted effort to promote recycling within our schools.”

As a federal requirement, all school buses must run on bio-diesel fuel. More costly to the districts, this fuel does burn cleaner than its predecessor.

Area school districts are looking at how to create bus routes that are more efficient to conserve fuel.

The Grain Valley School District is considering turning the thermostat up a degree on the air-conditioning system and down a degree on the heating system to use less energy.

The Blue Springs, Independence and Oak Grove school districts have entered into performance contracts. Companies that issue these contracts do an audit on a district’s energy consumption to find where money can be saved in regard to utility usage. Many times, bathroom fixtures, lighting and windows are replaced to make school facilities more efficient.

“I think we will all have to learn how to conserve energy in the future,” said Fort Osage Superintendent Larry Ewing. “Our utility costs have gone up 22 percent. Add that to the cost of fuel. We will have to find ways to be more efficient and conserve energy.”

The Examiner