Sustainability is all about the “green” in Douglas County
CASTLE ROCK – This week marks the 45th anniversary of Earth Day and the Douglas County School District (DCSD) has plenty to celebrate. DCSD is a national leader in school sustainability, which is about more than just being environmentally friendly. It is also about saving money.
Over the past seven years, the District has worked diligently to implement several sustainability measures. This earned the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Award in 2013, the first year the agency had given the award at the school district level.
At the school-level, Flagstone and Larkspur Elementary Schools have both won the Green Ribbon Award and five schools have earned the Green Flag Award including, Castle Rock, Copper Mesa, Fox Creek Flagstone and Heritage Elementary Schools.
Additionally, the efforts mean more money goes back to the District’s classrooms.
“Through energy conservation and waste reduction alone, we’ve been able to save hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said DCSD Sustainability Manager LeeAnn Westfall.
Here are a handful of the sustainability efforts implemented by DCSD:
Utility Audits & Teams
Many of the District’s buildings have been audited for energy and water consumption. The results have helped to empower teams within our buildings, including students at our schools, to create action plans, decreasing power and water usage and, as a result, reducing DCSD’s utility bills.
Working with our bus drivers, the District has been able to clear the air and save more than $27,000 over the past six months, by reducing the amount of time our yellow fleet (buses) idle. Efforts are now underway to spread this work to DCSD's white fleet.
Thirty of our schools were fitted with solar panels through a Power Purchasing Agreement. The panels generate 2.98 megawatts of energy for our schools and through this innovative arrangement, the District did not have to pay for any of the up front costs or on-going maintenance. DCSD only pays for the electricity generated, at a rate lower than standard electricity rates.
Natural lighting has been improved through the usage of solar tubes in a handful of Douglas County Schools.
Cherry Valley Elementary and Ponderosa High School have erected wind turbines.
Nearly all Douglas County schools participate in recycling programs, helping to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and decrease the District's trash bill.
In each of these cases, the District’s sustainability team has worked to not only speak to students about the environmental benefits of their efforts, but they also share the economic benefits. In the case of energy conservation, the schools can actually benefit directly from their work, through an innovative incentive program. A portion of the money saved, is sent back to the school.
“The incentive program is unique to Douglas County and gets the kids excited about not only reducing costs but seeing the fruits of their labor, by getting the incentive,” Westfall said.
Westfall and Sustainability Coordinator Courtney Kuntz hope to continue to expand their efforts, in ways that make sense in each school community. They say every little bit helps.
“Sustainability is a lifestyle,” Westfall explained. “It is not about being the greenest you can be, it is about doing your part. Everyone doesn’t have to drive the most fuel-efficient vehicle or walk to work. It is about doing the part that is conducive to your life. As long as all of us are doing a part, as a group we can reduce our impact on the environment.”
Learn more about sustainability in the Douglas County School District at www.dcsdk12.org/sustainability