Students Initiate Energy Conservation

Students Initiate Energy Conservation in Schools During Competition
Posted on 02/19/2020
Students Initiate Energy Conservation in Schools During Competition
Ponderosa Wins High School Category

PARKER - Students in Kathy Dorman's Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science class at Ponderosa High School were recognized by Resource Central in the ReNew Our Schools competition for their success in reducing their school building's energy use and raising awareness on energy consumption.

Reducing Building-Wide Energy Use

Students first conducted an energy audit of Ponderosa High School to identify energy inefficiencies throughout the building.

"We used materials from ReNew Our School to measure the lumens in a classroom to find out how much light was present," explained Dorman. "We could then see if a room was overlit, in which case we might recommend de-lamping, and if it was underlit, we could recommend that they put more light in."

As part of the energy audit, students measured how rooms were being heated using an infrared temperature gauge. They then identified "energy vampire appliances" – devices that run a small amount of electricity while they are plugged in.

Student-Created Signs to Raise Awareness "We had to think about what kind of change [the students] could implement to reduce energy consumption in a building," said Dorman. "Really, the only viable thing students can do, especially in Ponderosa, is something with the lighting."

Ponderosa High School was built in 1984 and, unlike newer DCSD schools, still uses fluorescent overhead lighting in many of its rooms. Replacing the fluorescent bulbs with LED bulbs school-wide would cost about $50,000, according to Dorman.

"That [replacement is] not something we could do [right now], but what we could do was to get people to turn off the lights when they weren't using the space or use natural lighting [instead of overhead lights]."

Ponderosa Senior Everest Stalker said, "During the competition, I learned how inefficient older buildings, like Ponderosa High School, [can be]."

Despite the challenges of a less energy-efficient building, the AP Environmental Science class made giant strides in reducing energy use.

Between the initial baseline reading and the end of the competition, Ponderosa's building-wide energy use dropped by 12 percent for a total of 18,033-kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity in 20 days. This is the equivalent of a passenger vehicle driven for 31,638 miles (the distance between New York City and Los Angeles eleven times!)

The drop in building-wide energy use has extended beyond the ReNew Our Schools competition.

“We have seen that even though the schools are only competing for 20 days, the behaviors remain for the rest of the school year at about the same reduction level,” said Kathy Croasdale, Program Manager for the competition. “The savings continue to accumulate!"

Raising Awareness on Energy Consumption

In addition to reducing energy consumption, a key aspect of the ReNew Our Schools contest included completing energy-focused curriculum and actions designed to enhance energy awareness. Options might include bringing in local energy experts to speak to the school, talking to administrators about energy saving ideas, teaching other students about energy, and more.

PHS Energy Consumption - ReNew Our Schools The Ponderosa students chose to focus on an awareness publicity campaign with posters and a special announcement. The AP Environmental Science class teamed up with the school's broadcasting class for a special morning announcement. They asked everyone in the building to turn off any unnecessary lights and unplug appliances for five minutes. In the energy chart, the blue arrow indicates the time the school turned off the lights. The building's energy consumption level did not return to its previous levels.

"With a simple announcement, the amount of energy saved increased drastically," said senior Tanner Spitzer.

Students also hung posters around the school to remind everyone to turn off their lights.

"[The campaign] seemed to be really effective because teachers were turning the lights off when they left their room," said Dorman. "I think it's still going on. We're still under what we typically use."

The AP students also created lesson plans that they hope to teach to the freshman Earth, Space, and Environmental Science class this semester. One lesson teaches about the source of Ponderosa High School's energy, and another demonstrates the heat difference and inefficiencies between incandescent, fluorescent, and LED bulbs. Students also researched different types of energy sources like hydroelectric energy, renewable energy, and non-renewable energy.

Prize Winnings to Keep Reducing Energy Use

In winning the most points, the AP students received a $2,500 check from ReNew Our Schools. The funds will go towards a new drinking fountain that has a water bottle filler for reusable water bottles.

"We want to reduce one-use plastic bottles," said Dorman. "If we can reduce the use of plastic, then we can reduce the use of energy."

Senior Elle Hettinga said, "It does surprise me how much energy we can save by doing simple things like turning off the light when you don't need it or turning down the thermostat when you're not home."

"We only have one world, and even [with] people just doing little things, we can make a drastic impact."

The ReNew Our Schools Competition

The ReNew Our Schools competition aims to ignite the next generation of conservationists in K-12 schools nationwide. The competition ran between Tuesday, October 22, 2019, and Friday, December 13, 2019. Participating schools were evaluated based on two categories: School-Measured Savings (reducing energy use) and School Energy Actions (raising energy awareness). The school that scored the highest cumulative number of points for both categories won the whole competition.

Ponderosa competed against three other similarly-sized Douglas County School District (DCSD) high schools: Legend High School, Mountain Vista High School, and Highlands Ranch High School. Other participating DCSD schools included Sedalia Elementary, Sagewood Middle School, and Renaissance Expeditionary Magnet School.

"All of these schools made excellent efforts to save energy in their buildings. Their students displayed a passion for energy conservation with creativity, leadership, and knowledge," said Beth Church, DCSD Sustainability Coordinator. "It was an amazing competition and a great authentic way to teach and implement energy conservation in our district."
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