Fredericksburg SHINES

Leading the Way in Sustainability

Greening Your School

10 Eco-Renovations any School can Make
Schools are often some of a city’s largest consumers of water and energy. Not only do they have more occupants than most commercial business buildings, but many times they are a great deal older and less efficient buildings. With both monetary and environmental costs steadily rising, schools are faced with two choices: build new or renovate.

Getting the Boerne ISD board of trustees on board with installing a rainwater harvesting system, may have been the hardest part of green building for Jeff Haberstroh, construction bond administrator, but the front and center placement of the system certainly does show the world Boerne is serious about protecting the environment.

Getting the Boerne ISD board of trustees on board with installing a rainwater harvesting system, may have been the hardest part of green building for Jeff Haberstroh, construction bond administrator, but the front and center placement of the system certainly does show the world Boerne is serious about protecting the environment.

Kim Scoville, associate academic dean of St. Agnes Academy in Houston, and Jeff Haberstroh, construction bond administrator for Boerne ISD, have recently gone through eco-renovations and   green construction respectively. Both are very happy with the results and say the actual construction with and implementation of green products was very easy. However, as with any construction project, they say it can be a long time from inception to completion. For this reason, they recommend other schools complete their due diligence, make all attempts to get everyone on board, find as much funding as possible and be patient.Whether your school is starting small or building big, building new or making newer, you can pull from lessons learned by these two Texas schools, as well as others around the nation, with these 10 ways to green your school.

Update lighting, windows and appliances
St. Agnes Academy needed a new heating and a/c unit and needed to stem rising utility bills, but they also felt "morally responsible to be good stewards of the earth." They found all three of these needs came together in energy-efficient lighting, windows and appliances. Check out Energy Star for a full list of certified energy-efficient products, and EnvironmentalLeader.com for energy saving lighting tips specific to schools.

Consider making and/or using biodiesel
For about $2,500, Bloom High School in Illinois assembled a biodiesel "reactor" with some store-bought material, piping and electrical tape. With donations of used cooking oil from the school cafeteria and local restaurants, the students produced enough biodiesel to run a mini school bus for an entire year.

Install solar panels

These can be quite expensive, but local energy companies often have educational programs that include the donation of a small solar panel. Some schools, like Bloom, are even saving on installation costs and increasing student involvement and education by allowing students to complete the installation.

Plant your grounds, roof and even walls!
Native plants and trees are usually easy to care for, require limited additional watering and beautify school grounds. The Calhoun School in NYC shows that even schools without lots of land can have a green thumb. They installed a Green Roof Learning Center that saves energy and water, is used as an educational tool and supplies fresh herbs for their renowned "Eat Right Now Lunch Program." Bloom High School in Illinois has even been planting indoors, installing a living wall that filters the air and water in a classroom laboratory.

Institute healthy/sustainable/organic lunches
Edible Austin profiles European-trained Chef Patricia Bauer-Slate and her calling to change school lunches, while Edutopia.org covers the success of Anthony Geraci to take school lunchrooms from unhealthy and wasteful to fresh, healthy, green and delicious. For information on bringing locally grown food into your school, check out FarmToSchool.org.

Switch to all-natural cleaners
Edutopia.org has a list of green cleaning products great for schools. If these are not available in your area or from your supplier, find out how to decode those green labels before hitting the store.

Build a composting setup
Mansfield Middle School in Connecticut shows you how to set up a school composting center and even includes fun facts and games for the students.

Implement/increase recycling
St. Agnes Academy gets their students involved in day-to-day awareness by having them manage the paper recycling.

Buy local/buy green
Boerne ISD bought much of their construction material locally, which reduced carbon emissions from delivery trucks. They also mined and recycled foundation materials from their own land. A majority of their steel components came from recycled sources and much of the architectural wood products came from fast growth timber forests. Exposed concrete floors throughout much of the buildings will reduce the cost maintenance and upkeep, while any carpet that was installed was made of recycled materials that can be recycled again.

Watt Watchers helps schools save energy through great ideas and tools that inspire both teachers and students.
Watt Watchers helps schools save energy through great ideas and tools that inspire both teachers and students.

Change thinking
While most of Boerne ISD’s green efforts were implemented in new construction, Haberstroh said eco-renovations "don’t necessarily need to be hard, tangible objects. Simply change the paradigm of how faculty and staff interact with the environment." He continued by explaining that one of the easiest and best green efforts they have put forth is through Watt Watchers. Students, especially at the elementary level, are tasked with the duty of patrolling the halls for teachers and classrooms who are wasting energy. Teachers are ticketed and students awarded when wasteful practices are found.

Both Scoville and Haberstroh say the cost of their school’s green changes will be fully returned to them through operational savings over time, but funding the projects up front was not always easy. Before tearing out that old a/c, or planting a tree, check out some of these organizations for possible funding opportunities.

  • Edutopia.org funding
  • Epa.gov – One Massachusetts school found funding through a program that allowed companies to forgo infraction fines if they invested in an environmental program.
  • The Clinton Climate Initiative
  • Your local utility company
  • Local landfills and/or recycling companies
  • Capital campaigns
  • Private companies

The time is now to eco-renovate your school. Aging buildings and equipment is only costing more money and depleting quality of life in and outside the school buildings, and today’s students are very aware of those facts. The green-minded student body at St. Agnes was one of the motivators for the school going greener, and we’ll bet your students are just as green-minded as theirs. If you are interested in finding out more about the changes St. Agnes Academy or Boerne ISD made, or your school is considering making some eco-renovations, Fredericksburg SHINES will be happy to come out and discuss changes that will make a difference on your campus.

contributed by  Aden Holasek  |  11/20/2009

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