A comparison of SBHS’s  energy use in the 2013-14 school year and the 2014-15 school year. 

Saving the Environment: SBHS Takes on the Whole School Energy Challenge

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Thursday March 26, 2015

The air’s a little cleaner, global warming has slightly lessened, and the polar bears are somewhat thankful because South Burlington High School (SBHS) has taken on the Whole School Energy Challenge (WSEC) encouraged by Vermont Energy Education Program (VEEP).

Between May 2014 and January of this year, SBHS has decreased its energy usage by five percent, or 38,917 kWh. This reduction translates to an appealing savings of $5,254 in energy costs. However, the school has another five percent of reducing to do, as the main goal of the challenge is to decrease school energy use by ten percent.

The challenge was initiated after a meeting between SBHS Principal Pat Burke; SBHS science teacher and leader of the school’s environmental group, Green Team, Matt Dransfield; and VEEP.

Many changes have contributed to the school’s current, impressive energy reduction. The school’s Green Team, dedicated to saving the environment, has taken a leadership role in this change. It has been dedicated to putting the Whole School Energy Challenge into action, working in collaboration with the school’s National Honor Society (NHS) and the Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP) team.

So far, the group has issued green bingo cards to students as part of a scavenger hunt that took place the week before Thanksgiving, an activity that it may reattempt. It also planned and organized a small Hibernation Vacation that was held over Thanksgiving break when all appliances in the school were turned off and unplugged. Dransfield sent an e-mail out that requested district-wide compliance with this mission. He also urged his students to watch the movie Disruption, which showcases the consequences of not reacting to climate change, and trying to stop it. Another environmental-awareness reinforcer was free skier Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, who presented on behalf of Protect our Winters (POW) to a group of SBHS students. Additionally, a whole-school assembly was held by the Alliance for Climate Education on November 19.

Though the school is quite pleased with its progress so far, it’s trying to push ahead for another five percent energy use reduction. Green Team members are attending all sporting events to recruit students to commit to doing one thing for the environment that saves energy. Several students have agreed, vowing to take three-minute-long showers to save water and the energy needed to heat it. As well, Green Team members will enlist faculty members to sign pledge cards stating that they will do all they can to reduce energy use in their classrooms. The team is scheduling a visit from Norm Etkind of the Vermont Superintendents Association’s School Energy Management Program for a walk-through of the facility. Etkind will generate a report and suggestions to help students, teachers, and faculty pursue energy savings. Additionally, the school is going to receive part of its energy from the Community Solar array on the South Burlington landfill.

GUEP is promoting activities as well. It is training high school students how to teach elementary students about energy efficiency, mapping locations of solar energy in South Burlington, and making art to promote solar power, among other energy-saving measures.

Thus, SBHS is going to continue pursuing its goal, cutting energy use until it reaches the ten percent energy-reduction marker. As always, the Green Team will be reinforcing this mission, as well as many other factors along the way.

SOURCE: Ali Barritt, SBHS CDC Correspondent