The Easiest Way to Increase Money in the Classroom

Whether you’re a teacher, principal or parent volunteer, one of the biggest concerns is ensuring each classroom has the necessary supplies to provide students with a great learning experience. Countless hours are spent each year conducting fundraisers, asking parents for money, and trying to convince local companies to donate. But there is an easier way to accomplish the goal that is often overlooked…spend less money on energy.

Don’t think for a second that I’m advocating for hot, humid classrooms in warm weather, or freezing conditions in winter. I’m talking about monitoring and managing your campus’ energy use to ensure you’re not wasting it. I know of school districts spending as much as $2 million a year for electricity and gas, and while part of the problem is outdated, inefficient HVAC units, that isn’t their only problem. There is no monitoring or management of their energy systems. If there were, they could likely shave a sizable percentage of their utilities budget through managing their energy consumption. The money they save on utilities could go right back into the general fund, which is where classroom spending, teachers’ salaries, and educational materials come from.

Some schools that understand that energy savings parlays into more funding in the classroom make a rush to install solar. I love solar, but it shouldn’t be the first move you make to save energy in your school. Becoming energy efficient and lowering the amount of energy your school consumes is a necessary first step. Why purchase more solar panels than you need? Bring your energy load down first, THEN buy solar panels to fit your energy needs, based on a well-managed energy system. A good energy monitoring and management system is far less costly than buying more solar panels than you require.

intech-logo-finalOne of the Go Green Initiative’s newest partners is InTech Energy. Their product, Energy 360, combines power monitoring, energy analytics and building control into a single, simplified software interface at an affordable price. Their user interface helps facility personnel visualize the equipment that is contributing to high energy bills in the school, and is so intuitive that students can understand and use it for math or science lessons. School district facilities managers can see real-time energy usage using their computer or smartphone and take immediate action using the building controls built into the software. Listen to this podcast to learn more.

We all want to prepare our children for the 21st century, and that’s why we work so hard to invest in their education. Let’s use 21st century technology, like Energy 360, to spend less money on utilities and more in the classroom. You can get in touch with InTech today by calling 925-475-8877 or emailing

Local Leaders of the 21st Century

Bob Molinaro, Owner of Pleasanton Garbage Service

Bob Molinaro, Owner of Pleasanton Garbage Service

The Local Leaders of the 21st Century is a new program for high school students through the Go Green Initiative. Thanks to a grant from Pleasanton Garbage Service, it is being piloted at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, CA, and will be rolled out nationwide in the coming months. StudentsThe program is designed to help students understand how local public policy and industry work together to implement and maintain the following critical community systems: waste, water, energy and food. The program is designed to allow students to interface with local leaders to understand how these systems work in their own community, visit critical infrastructure associated with these systems, and to express what they have learned in photos, videos, essays and speeches. Students have the opportunity to earn both scholarships and community service hours for graduation.

Students 2During the spring semester, we are studying Pleasanton’s waste system. We will help them gain access to subject matter experts from both the public and private sector, and we will take them to see our local recycling center and landfill.

There are fifty-seven (57) Amador students involved in the project this spring semester. VideoThey are divided into eight (8) working groups: website design, interviewing experts, writing articles, photography, video production, graphic design, PowerPoint creation, and speeches. Together, the groups will produce content that can be shared with the entire community of Pleasanton to help others understand how Pleasanton’s waste system works, and how every resident and business can participate in creating the most sustainable waste system possible.

students 3Students have had the opportunity for Q&A sessions with Pleasanton’s Mayor, Jerry Thorne; the City Manager, Nelson Fiahlo; Bob Molinaro, Owner of Pleasanton Garbage Service; and Wendy Sommer, Executive Director of the Alameda County Waste Management Authority. Stay tuned for updates as the Amador Local Leaders launch their website and address the local Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce!

School Spotlight: Bishop O’Dowd High School

green ribbon schoolsIt’s not easy to be chosen as a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School, but Bishop O’Dowd high school in Oakland, CA is no ordinary educational institution. According to its mission statement, “Bishop O’Dowd High School seeks to develop leaders of influence who are loving, open to growth, religious, intellectually competent, and skilled leaders committed to justice and peace.” Sustainability is one of the school’s guiding values, and in 2013 they hired Andra Yeghoian to direct the Sustainability Department.yeghoian

Before Andra came onboard, the school had an AP Environmental Science class and a student club called Earth Bound, but they had little or no influence on things like green purchasing, locally grown food in the cafeteria, and campus-wide recycling initiatives.

Andra has conducted waste and energy audits, and has made inroads on integrating sustainability into the curriculum across numerous subject areas. She hosts professional development workshops and is pursuing grants that will pay teachers to develop sustainability curriculum.

The campus has a LEED Platinum Center for Environmental Studies which overlooks the Living Lab, a four acre garden where food is grown next to an outdoor classroom with a stream running nearby. Chickens and ducks are part of the fauna of the Living Lab, which was once an inner city illegal dumping site. lacrosse bishop odowd

Many of the school’s athletic teams, including the men’s Lacrosse team pictured here, work in the school garden to promote team bonding and to perform service to the school.

Any visitor to the Bishop O’Dowd campus would know that they are serious about caring for the environment. File_001Recycling centers are ubiquitous and properly utilized; students have organized a drive to collect money for clean water technologies for underserved communities; and litter is glaringly absent from the campus grounds.File_000

In May 2016, Bishop O’Dowd will host a representative from St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, NJ to discuss ways to form an east coast/west coast partnership between the staff and students of the two schools to further promote sustainability on both campuses.

Student Spotlight: Graphic Novel Inspires Recycling

St. Benedict’s Prep (SBP) was recently featured on 60 Minutes. SBP is an all-boys 7th-12th grade school in the inner city of Newark, NJ. The school is currently run by Alumnus Fr. Edwin Leahy, O.S.B., and has been operated by the Benedictine monks of Newark Abbey since 1868. Thanks to a grant from Covanta, I have had the privilege to work with the school this year. My first introduction to the campus in September 2015 was to watch their convocation gathering early one morning. I saw hundreds of young men huddled together in a small gymnasium sharing updates on accomplishments of the school’s sports teams and singing spiritual songs of encouragement with the kind of reckless abandon that would hardly be possible if there were girls to impress.

I met with the six senior leaders of SBP; each has over 90 students under his leadership. When I asked them what environmental issue they were most concerned about, they answered almost in unison, “Climate change.” Our meeting was just days after the Pope visited the east coast, and they were familiar with his encyclical, Laudato Si, which exhorts the faithful to reduce environmental pollution and waste in order to ease the suffering of those in poor communities that are most vulnerable to the impact of deficient resources and environmental degradation. The encyclical seemed to fall perfectly in line with the school’s motto that is boldly spelled out at the entrance to the school, “Whatever hurts my brother hurts me.”

Emmanuel "Manny" KnightonOver the course of the 2015-16 school year, a core group of staff and students have been working on ways to reduce waste and start a campus-wide recycling system. They have reduced cafeteria waste and started recycling paper and cardboard. In order to expand their efforts, they wanted to gauge student attitudes, so they decided to use the periodic school-wide writing prompt exercise as their mechanism. What they developed was one of the most innovative tools for engaging students that I have ever seen. Emmanuel “Manny” Knighton is a senior who is a truly gifted artist. His art teacher, Pamela Wye-Hunsinger, encouraged him to create a graphic novel with questions about recycling and climate change with space for students to respond. Here is what he created: WRITING PROMPT-BeesGoGreen 1-5-16.  In addition to the writing prompt, Manny is using the same character and graphic novel style to create signs that will be placed around the school to remind students to place their recyclables in the correct bin.

Manny, like so many of the bright and talented students at SBP, is off to college next year. He plans to attend Rutgers New Brunswick. He’s been drawing since he was seven years old, and is already a decade into what I’m sure will be a long, successful career in impactful artistic designs that will make the world a more beautiful place for all of us.

GGI Board Member “Fishing for Energy”

Meg Morris is one of the original Board of Directors for the Go Green Initiative, but her day job is Vice President of Material Management and Community Affairs for Covanta. In this video clip, she is featured in conjunction with an innovative program called, “Fishing for Energy.”

Fishermen are being asked to unload abandoned crab traps found in the Barnegat Bay into dockside dumpsters in Waretown and Mantoloking. As part of the “Fishing for Energy ” program— the traps will be converted into electric energy. “The derelict traps go into the combustion chamber where they burn with other garbage producing steam and heat used in boiling the water in the boiler tubes. This produces high pressure steam which is then forced through a turbine which produces the electricity,” said Meg Morris, Covanta. This program is possible through a partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), Schnitzer Steel, and Covanta, a world leader in the field of energy-from-waste (EFW). Covanta is based in New Jersey and has 40 EFW facilities in the US.