By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN It might be gray and white outside, but inside Delano Elementary School, students and staff are seeing “green.”
“Delano Elementary alone has shown a 17 percent reduction in energy use just in the last year, resulting in avoided energy costs of over $17,000 for 2012, and an additional avoided cost of about $10,000 in 2011,” noted Delano Elementary head custodian Scott Yanke.
Assistant Principal Corey Lahr recently participated in the Green Classroom Professional Certificate Program, an online course that he said “reiterated what we’re doing here at the elementary and as a district as a whole.”
The opportunity was provided in conjunction with the inaugural Green Apple Day of Service Sept. 29, a nationwide event that encourages healthier schools.
“Landscape Structures brought awareness to the Green Apple Day of Service in the Delano schools, and we supplied green apples for each student as a way to eat healthy, whole foods, and encourage being outside in the fall,” said Amy Jo Madson of Landscape Structures.
The program Lahr completed was introduced by the Center for Green Schools at the US Green Building Council to provide ideas for sustainable practices in the classroom.
“After watching the modules, I realized that Delano Elementary School is on-par, and maybe ahead of the game, with other schools,” Lahr noted.
The district is in its third year of working with Schools for Energy Efficiency (SEE) to create a five-year plan for saving energy and, ultimately, money.
“The biggest thing is a mind shift getting into the habit of doing some of the little things,” Lahr said.
A few of these “little things” include shutting lights off when leaving a room, keeping the thermostat at 68 degrees in the winter, combining refrigerators, utilizing light sensors, and unplugging electronics at night.
“Over the first two years, the district has avoided about $62,000 in energy costs. That is on top of the previous savings made from upgrading the lighting and HVAC control systems,” Yanke said.
Although energy conservation results in the largest money savings, smaller efforts can also provide long-term benefits, according to Yanke.
“Delano Elementary does a great deal of recycling, avoiding the landfill as much as we possibly can,” he said. “The elementary school recycles about six yards of paper, cardboard, cans, and plastic bottles every week.”
For the past year and a half, the school has also been redirecting eight yards of organic waste each week to a compost pile.
“For Delano Elementary, that ‘green’ effort has not only helped with reducing the volume of waste sent to a landfill, it has also saved about $700 in annual garbage costs,” Yanke noted.
Other conservation efforts include replacing toilet and urinal flush valves, as well as sink aerators, with lower-usage units. Since those changes were made in 2007, the school has reduced its per-student water usage immensely.
“Each year, the elementary used to use about 1,285 gallons of water per person, and now it is down to 901 gallons a person,” Yanke noted.
In addition to energy-savings, creating a healthy environment for students in Delano includes promotion of outdoor activities, exercise, tree planting, and gardening, according to Yanke.
“As always, Delano schools are open to hearing ideas on improving the education of the students,” he said.