Tahoe Truckee Unified School District implements culture of conservation
August 13, 2013
TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — Reuse. Repurpose. Recycle. If your child attends a TTUSD school, you've probably heard this mantra. Because of district-wide conservation and education efforts, students have become ambassadors for the environment. "Why would I want to use a plastic spork for three minutes that's just going to sit in a landfill forever?" said a Kings Beach Elementary Green Team student when the cafeteria switched to reusable utensils.
"One of the highlights of our school district is the enviable energy conservation and sustainability program that we have in place," TTUSD's Superintendent-Chief Learning Officer Dr. Rob Leri. TTUSD's conservation program getting recognition from other school communities and was the headline article for the October 2012 issue of Energy Services Bulletin, published by the Western Area Power Association.
PROGRAM GOALS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
Anna Klovstad, C.E.M. project manager in the TTUSD Facilities Department, developed and implements the district's energy conservation and sustainability plan, which has saved more than $1.4 million since 2008. The energy saving push was first driven by fiscal needs to free up general fund monies for classroom instruction. Other goals include joining community leaders to create a culture of sustainability, and to educate the district staff, students, and community members about home conservation. It is working.
Data shows since the program started TTUSD has decreased energy usage, starting with a 16 percent energy reduction in the 2008/2009 school year, with a 32 percent reduction in costs for 2011/2012. During 2012/2013, the percentage went down to 31 percent due to multiple factors: an unusually cold winter, an increase in energy costs, and more summer school facilities use. View Klovstad's July 10 Board update at http://www.ttctv.org or go to http://www.TTUSD.org and click on the "Sustainability–Energy Conservation" tab.
Saving energy is only part of the district's success and cost savings. TTUSD has averaged about $4,500 in savings monthly in disposal costs since contracting with Sierra Cost Management in February of 2011. School site and office recycling efforts have reduced waste, while composting, reusable lunch trays and utensils, hand dryers instead of paper towels, and many items are now reuse and repurposed. Scholars, the Green Teams and Eco Kids actively generate ideas for conservation.
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With community help, student inspiration, and partnerships with agencies, TTUSD has built a culture of conservation. For example, the Envirolution Club's Trashion Show has brought awareness to people of all ages.
"I can't say enough about Missy Mohler and Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships," said Klovstad. "The Trashion Shows are really inspiring and help educate people of all ages about energy use and conservation, recycling, waste stream reduction, and water pollution awareness. SWEP and the Envirolution Club also provide great support to all of our Green Teams."
Countless hours of volunteer help, supporters like the Shane McConkey Foundation, SWEP, the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, The Growing Dome, Truckee Elementary PTO, Canopy Strategies and partnerships with SMC, Truckee Donner PUD, Liberty Utilities, the Town of Truckee, CLEAResult, and other partners have made many projects possible. Truckee Elementary became a Green School and was the testing site for products such as hand dryers, LED lights, computer shutdown software, and water fixture testing. These successful programs will be introduced to into other TTUSD schools.
Klovstad said the support and cooperation among teachers and school staff and district staff has been rewarding. She appreciates the confidence John Britto, director of Facilities, has shown from the start. It was important to be able to take risks and try new things. Klovstad said one of the best parts of her job is collaborating with other departments — most recently Kat Soltanmorad, director of Food Services. Together they implemented the Green and Eco Teams' ideas for acquiring reusable utensils vs. disposable sporks in several elementary schools.
They are also working together on waste management and reduction. They noticed whole apples were thrown away every day at lunch. So together Klovstad and Soltanmorad did some research and bought industrial apple slicers. The waste immediately dropped and healthy eating increased — elementary school kids like sliced apples. Food services and facilities also collaborate with composting and recycling efforts.
It's hard to miss the huge yellow GAIA donation bins (Gaia is the Greek name for the "Goddess that personifies the Earth") in front of the district office and most schools. Donating used clothing and shoes is a way everyone can participate in sustainability. GAIA resells what is still useful in the U.S. and Europe and gives a portion of the proceeds back to the school site, then donates what is not sellable to developing countries and also repurposes unusable materials into other products.
Just as funding from rebates, bonds, and grants and donations have recently expanded, voter approved Proposition 39 is coming through with funding expected to be about $190,000 for 2013 and $225,000 estimated annually for the next four years. These funds are dedicated to kindergarten through 12th-grade schools and community colleges for energy projects.
TTUSD is working on a plan that is part of the larger facilities plan. Proposition 39 funds will help the district focus on retro and re-commissioning systems and machinery at school sites that don't currently meet efficiency standards. Klovstad is working on a five-year plan project list that will include more hand dryers, advancing building control systems, more boiler replacements, more pump replacements, more LED lighting retrofits, improved irrigation controls, more workshops for staff and students, and increasing staff awareness and buy-in.
Utilizing grow domes with student participation and industrial composting are also projects on the horizon. At some point, it's not just about the money that is saved. Empowering students to make decisions will help create a sustainable environment will positively impact their lives for years to come.