By Chief Business and Operations Officer, Mark Evans
One of the goals for our Local Control Accountability Plan has to do with our facilities, and a specific action relates to reducing our carbon footprint. The images of schools bring to mind students, teachers, classrooms and playgrounds. However, there is a lot of infrastructure necessary to operate a campus. The electricity, trash removal, food services, and grounds maintenance draw off the power grid, use water resources, and send waste to landfills. We are working to lessen those impacts and hopefully generate savings where possible. Being “green” is a goal that can be both environmental and economical.
On the large scale of becoming greener, the Facilities Master Plan is looking at efficiencies and modernization that will reduce energy consumption. The plan will be required to engineer roof systems to support solar panels, use energy efficient systems, and weatherize buildings to higher standards. These are expected practices for school design. Additionally, materials used in construction often call for recycled products. In selecting carpets and other furnishings, products that are made from reused materials will be another means of limiting our carbon footprint. As systems are modernized, new heating and cooling systems are more energy efficient and lighting choices will generate savings through LED lamps as well as sensors that monitor occupancy. These are direct design methods that will be beneficial both for the environment and the budget. Replacing old inefficient infrastructure creates savings on the utility bills as well as on the maintenance costs.
Another source of savings for the District is through the use of Proposition 39 dollars. Prop 39 revenues come from the State, and they are to be used to update systems and reduce energy consumption. Many of these projects will mirror the Master Plan, but these dollars are available now, and the goal is to find immediate savings. The most effective use of these revenues has been through the replacement of lighting. In the spring the District will put LED lights in the North Gym. These will create immediate savings in electricity, and the life span of the lamps will minimize costs for replacement. Last year similar lights were installed in the South Gym. Another system that has been upgraded with these monies is the Energy Management System at the high school. This system helps control climate across the campus. The high school is the largest campus with the most activities, so much of the savings will be there, but plans are being made for similar steps at the elementary sites so savings can be found across the district.
Other actions are being taken to reduce waste and increase recycling. One significant accomplishment was removing the styrofoam trays from the cafeteria. Now the District uses trays that are compostable and made from post-consumer products. While this does increase costs, it takes the styrofoam out of the ecosystem. The Green Club at LCHS has investigated composting trashcans, and our trash services company provides white bins where cardboard, paper and other recyclable products can be disposed of rather than going into landfills. Water is another area of conservation for the District. We work closely with the City of La Cañada Flintridge to monitor our fields. Through smart meters, the City is able to keep the fields in good shape and minimize the amount of irrigation.
Schools use a lot of resources, and the La Cañada Unified School District believes that minimizing resource consumption helps our environment and saves on operational costs. These dollars can be reinvested back into programs which serve students. Whether we are looking at facilities through the lens of a capital investment, or the routine operations of a school site, the District is making efforts to create more by using less.