Earth to Blazers: go green

April 22, 2008, midnight | By Gus Woods | 15 years, 11 months ago

Blair can and should be more energy efficient

This Earth Day, activists, politicians and pundits around the country will be discussing ways to make our society and technology more energy efficient. But it would be a shame if on the one day when the world focuses on the Earth's natural environment and resources, students and staff at Blair ignored the school's own problems with energy efficiency. Numerous methods to make Blair more energy efficient exist, many simple, some complicated and others ingenious. But no matter what, they should be considered as possible alternatives to the way the school currently consumes energy.

Currently, K-12 schools in the United States use 425 trillion BTU (British thermal unit of energy, used to measure the energy consumption of industry) every year, which is seven percent of all energy used by commercial buildings, according to Green Schools Initiative, an organization of environmentalists and parents of school-aged children that provides information, pressures policymakers and volunteers to help enact green initiatives. According to the Department of Energy, taxpayers spend $6 billion on energy for the country's schools every year, $1.5 billion of which is spent on wasted energy - when schools have rooms that are too bright, too hot or too cold. All that money could be used to fund numerous needs, such as the purchase 40 million $37 textbooks every year.

While Blair's Students for Global Responsibility (SGR) has been working to make the school more energy efficient by installing new lamps in six computer labs, planning on removing one of four florescent candles in each ceiling light in the hallway and aiming on improving heating and air conditioning at Blair, other efforts by other people need to be made.

Blair could install a Green Roof - a layer of soil planted with grass or another form of vegetation that covers the roof. Such a roof would reduce heat lost through the ceiling and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The amount of money required for a green roof varies according to what sort of roof the schools chooses to adopt. Simpler green roofs typically cost $8 to $20 per square foot, while the more complicated cost $15 to $25 per square foot to install and maintain, according to the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Green roofs are expensive, though not astronomically so, and the initial costs are easily offset by long-term savings in reduced energy expenditures.

Easy-to-install tinted window films can be used to absorb solar energy and make classrooms cooler in hot weather by lowering the amount of sunlight that enters the room, lessening the strain on the air conditioner. The cheapest and most basic tinted film for windows on large buildings can cost from $40 to $200 depending on how many windows the school chooses to tint. If the cafeteria sold fewer foods that require heating to prepare, more cold cut sandwiches and fewer pizzas for instance, less tinted windows would be needed.

Montgomery County Public Schools' (MCPS) current budget crisis puts a damper on many of these ideas, which seem great in theory, but are initially very expensive. However, not only do such green initiatives yield monetary benefits in the long run, in effect lowering MCPS's overall budget, but they can also bring in short-term cash. Many organizations, such as the Green Schools Program and the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Protection provide rebates and awards in cash for schools that simply attempt to go green. The $5,000 from the Green Schools Program could be used to install solar panels. Although initially expensive - a single solar panel can cost more than $500 - they would save Blair a lot of money in the long run, improve Blair's reputation and set an example for other schools in MCPS and beyond.Large-scale construction projects and reforms are not the only things necessary to reduce Blair's energy consumption; Blazers must take responsibility as individuals as well. Such simple measures include taking fewer trips to the bathroom and using less water and less paper when a trip is necessary. Students should try to conserve whatever lunch supplies they can, such as plastic Ziploc bags and plastic utensils, rather than throwing them away. During science labs, a lot of water can be wasted in cleaning beakers and tables. Students should try to run those tricky science lab faucets sparingly.

Blair students and staff should also pressure the Montgomery County Department of Energy by writing letters and emails or by scheduling meetings with officials to create Clean Energy Rewards Programs in the county's schools. Currently through such programs, the Department provides rewards for small businesses, residents and organizations that start clean energy initiatives.

The days of environmental activists being stereotyped as raggedy, long-haired radicals are over. Today, world leaders consider preserving the environment an imperative, and our presidential candidates argue over who has the best energy policy. Considering Blair's enormous size, we must join this worldwide movement and find ways to reduce the school's energy usage.

Last updated: May 4, 2021, 1:07 p.m.

Gus Woods. William "Gus" Woods is a junior who enjoys, far more than anything else, tiddlywinks tournaments and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" re-runs. He is a great fan of any and all music and enjoys playing the piano in his spare time. He belongs, literally belongs, … More »

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