Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable
Promoting Pollution Prevention Through Information Exchange

Please note that the Topic Hubs developed by this Center have been archived and are no longer being updated. GLRPPR has converted several of its Topic Hubs to LibGuides, which allow for integration of some social features.

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Energy Efficient Schools and Students: P2 Opportunities
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Reasons to Change
Barriers to Change
P2 Opportunities
Case Studies
Glossary of Terms
Key Contacts
Complete List of Links

Essential Links:

Alliance to Save Energy: Saving Energy in Schools
This portion of the Alliance to Save Energy web site includes best practices for controlling energy ...

The Campus Environmental Resource Center--CampusERC--is intended to be a great library of resources ...

CHPS Best Practices Manual
CHPS has developed and maintains a six-volume technical best practices manual for high performance s...

Energy Design Guidelines for High Performance Schools--Cool and Dry Climates
Energy designs included in this 88-page document includes case studies as well as site designs, dayl...

Environmental Building News
Articles, reviews, and news stories covering energy-efficient, resource-efficient, and healthy build...

Environmental Design + Construction (ED+C)
Bi-monthly magazine covering the green building industry.

GLRPPR Educational Institutions Sector Resource
This Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) Sector Resource provides a compil...

Green Schools Project: Using Energy Efficiency to Strengthen Schools
The Green Schools program helps schools use energy efficiently through building retrofits, changes i...

Healthy School Environments Assessment Tool (HealthySEAT)
EPA has developed a unique software tool to help school districts evaluate and manage their school f...

Midwest Buildings Technology Application Center (MBTAC)
This web site is a project of the Energy Center of Wisconsin and the University of Illinois at Chica...

National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF)
Created in 1997 by the U.S. Department of Education, the National Clearinghouse for Educational Faci...

NY-CHPS High Performance Schools Guidelines
The State Education Department (SED) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authorit...

School Operations and Maintenance: Best Practices for Controlling Energy Costs
Prepared by Princeton Energy Resource International, HPowell Energy Associates and the Alliance to S...

Smart Energy Design Assistance Center
The Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC) is designed to encourage for-profit small business...

UIUC LibGuide: Green/Sustainable Building
This reference guide includes links to both popular materials and more technical information. It is ...

USGBC Build Green Schools
Launched on October 16, 2007 by the U.S. Green Building Council, this site is filled with profiles o...

<big><b>Energy Efficient Schools and Students: Pollution Prevention Opportunities </b></big>

Information in this section includes activities and materials, specific to energy topics and curricula, that help reduce energy waste, encourage the use of alternative renewable energies, and prevent pollution.

Some initial groundwork is required before implementing an energy efficiency project that intentionally includes pollution prevention. Simple research on current technology is often sufficient. Regional assistance is available through state agencies. Often a program supported by the full community of the school provides greater return with an ability to get the necessary buy-in and to set P2 goals and policy. There are a number of ways in which to begin the process and the following four are only suggestions:

  • Establish an energy efficiency program,
  • Measure and track energy performance,
  • Educate the school community about energy consumption and sources,
  • Substitute non-efficient equipment for more efficient equipment, and
  • Change the school and community's consumption behaviors.

How you initiate a school energy program depends upon the school's needs. If the district is commissioning a new school, the designs need to incorporate beneficial energy-efficient standards from the beginning of the process.

Using whole building design is a way to integrate energy efficiency in every aspect of new construction and renovation. This type of design process utilizes different design specialties such as architecture, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and interior design. Building configuration and placement, building envelope, appliances and equipment, daylighting, artificial lighting, and building materials used are all considered throughout the entire design process. For example, energy cost and use are calculated very early in the design so that others involved in design are able to consider the implications of building orientation, configuration, window and door placement, mechanical systems, and lighting options.

If the school is seeking energy reduction in an existing building, a plan should first involve an audit, which is simple and helps identify energy waste. Efforts initiated at the start or integrated into an existing building will result in lowering energy expenses as well as improving the quality of the learning environment often resulting in higher building performance and student achievement.

How do you get started? The following suggestions are some simple steps that can help establish an energy efficiency program:

  • Evaluate your school's current policy,
  • Get commitment from administrators and school board members,
  • Conduct an energy audit
  • Form an energy advisory committee to include representatives from teaching staff, student body, administrators, parents (PTA), and building managers
  • Identify your options and opportunities
  • Educate staff and students and form "energy watcher" teams
  • Set measurable and achievable energy reduction goals
  • Begin. Don't get so caught up in the planning process that you never start.
  • Monitor energy consumption
  • Implement changes based on adequate funding
  • Communicate results

Each of these steps offers myriad opportunities for schools. For example, getting commitment from administrators allows the school to demonstrate that it is proactive in striving for an energy efficient school to both the district and community. The tax-paying members of the community will appreciate the efforts once they understand the process.

When an energy advisory committe is formed, schools have the chance to allow diverse representatives (teachers, parents, maintenance, etc.) to work toward common goals. In the case of a results-oriented project, short-term activities rather than long-term goals are important.

Setting energy reduction goals provides the opportunity to not only reduce energy costs but indirect costs related to pest management.

Conducting an energy audit provides an opportunity for outside agencies to assist, as well as to better understand the overall school operation, offering plenty of opportunities for change. Because of rapidly increasing energy costs, many federal, state and local government agencies have existing programs and experts to assist school staff with implementing energy programs.

When schools implement necessary changes based on adequate funding, this allows for a variety of players to participate while achieving short-term results with long-term impacts. Finally, opportunities for communicating results include state and national energy reduction awards, employee newsletters, press and electronic media, parent and student awareness.


Another pollution prevention opportunity is to educate the public on energy efficient strategies. Multi-disciplinary activities can be used in classrooms to teach children about the types of energy and our energy behaviors. These lessons are constructed with the hope that children will disseminate the information regarding energy waste into the community as well as at home. These activities should also be shared with school administrators and the school board. An example is the ENERGY STAR "Change a Light, Change the World" campaign, which is a call to action for homeowners to replace a light in their home to an ENERGY STAR qualified one. Schools can get involved as Pledge Drivers, set goals for the number of pledges, and track their progress online.

Teachers can work with students to design and conduct energy audits of their homes, as well as the classrooms. They can prepare lessons on energy consumption and then evaluate the results by surveying the class. The students can then design their own plans to address the findings.

Alternative Energy and Equipment

Simple substitutions for energy equipment can also reduce pollution. For example:

Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) contain trace amounts of mercury, as do other fluorescent light bulbs, however these contain less mercury than standard incandescent light bulbs, and the life expectancy of these bulbs is considerably longer, CFLs can use up to 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs while lasting up to ten times longer. Using CFLs is an energy savings, an economic savings, and results in fewer bulbs being disposed. (For more information about CFL's see Energy Star Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs. For more information on properly disposing of compact fluorescent light bulbs, see

Additionally, longer life expectancy from higher performance, better quality equipment reduces waste in landfills. More efficient HVAC equipment reduces reliance upon less green/sustainable energy production utilities. It improves the productivity of the equipment that directly benefits the environment.

Environmentally Friendly Purchases

Energy efficient design strategies encourage the practice of stewardship within the school and community which extends to other practices. It helps to establish a better-informed population that extends beyond concern for escalating heating and cooling costs. Reduction of pollution can and will reduce budget expenses for non-education based items.

Chemical Management

Creating a more efficient building eliminates areas where outdoor air and indoor air interact. Improved insulation, sealed gaps around pipes and air ducts, and tighter sweeps around doors help to eliminate entrances for pests. By reducing pest populations in schools, less pesticides are used, and this improves the air quality and reduces the risk of environmental contamination from the chemicals. Pest managment has a strong correlation with energy-efficient design in schools.

Numerous opportunities exist for preventing pollution through the process of establishing an energy program within an existing school or implementing energy efficient designs in new construction.


The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

The Energy Efficient Schools and Students Topic Hub™ was developed by:

Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable
Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable
Contact email:

Hub Last Updated: 7/6/2011

GLRPPR is a member of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange, a national network of regional information centers: NEWMOA (Northeast), WRRC (Southeast), GLRPPR (Great Lakes), ZeroWasteNet (Southwest), P2RIC (Plains), Peaks to Prairies (Mountain), WSPPN (Pacific Southwest), PPRC (Northwest).


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