By Katie Murdoch Enterprise editor
EDMONDS — The Snohomish County Public Utility District and Edmonds School District are working together to conserve energy and encourage students to change habits — as simple as flicking off a light switch.
These energy conservation efforts began last September.
School districts, including Edmonds, have made commitments to reduce water and energy use, said PUD spokesman Neil Neroutsos. Helping school districts accomplish these goals are included in a larger PUD sustainability program conservation program.
For PUD, cutting down on energy means fewer power plants being built, reducing the impact on the environment and helping customers keep their bills in check, he said.
For school districts, learning these habits is beneficial to students.
“It provides real life education and experience for students,” he said. “They learn to use resources responsibly.”
At Lynndale Elementary School, students and staff alike have been taking steps to conserve energy during non-operating hours by turning off computers and lights and switching incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs.
“We’re helping change behaviors district wide,” Neroutsos said.
These behaviors include simple tasks such as switching the standby mode on copy machines to kick in after 15 minutes, rather than three hours. This habit alone has saved the district a few thousand dollars, Neroutsos said.
Pandora Touart, school district energy efficiency coordinator, has visited classrooms to teach students simple ways they can conserve energy — plugging cords into a power strip and turning off lights when leaving a room.
“What’s made it so successful at Lynndale is everyone is engaged in it,” Touart said.
Using a power strip cuts back on “vampire power” — that little bit of energy always running so that appliances can instantly turn on, she said.
A custodian at Lynndale spearheaded efforts to have Touart purchase compact fluorescent light bulbs to replace incandescent lights. Touart purchased thousands of CFLs and had them installed in district buildings. This effort has saved the district more than 200,000 kilowatt hours.
“At Lynndale, they’re very conscientious of lighting,” she said.
Further efforts included staff removing a vending machine, turning off computers and removing personal appliances to help save energy.
“Basically if there’s a switch, turn it off, and if there’s a plug, pull it out,” Touart said.
Touart also organized a friendly competition between Lynndale and Mountlake Terrace elementary students by comparing how much energy each school used to see who was practicing the conservation tips they had learned.
Lighting sensors were installed at the Edmonds-Woodway High School stadium.
While staff is making changes at older schools within the district, newer schools are designed to conserve energy before doors are even opened.
Lynnwood High School, for example, features a range of efficiency measures, including natural ventilation in classrooms, high efficiency lighting fixtures, maximizing use of natural daylight and using laptop computers instead of desktops.