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District goes green to save some green

POSTED March 16, 2010 8:50 p.m.
Budget cuts are hitting everyone hard, forcing many organizations to layoff valuable workers including the Turlock Unified School District who has sent out 76 pink slips this year. In effort to save money, without more painful layoffs, the TUSD has gone green with an energy conservation.
“It’s the right thing to do at the right time,” said Andy Walker, TUSD energy manager.
The project started about nine months ago and has thus far saved the district about 24.4 percent — $312,585 — in energy expenditures, according to Walker’s energy conservation presentation at the March 2 board of trustees meeting.
Since the project began, the district has saved about 861 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, removed about 155 cars from the highways through conservation and saved enough energy to equal 22,018 tree seedlings planted and grown for 10 years, according district reports.
As the project grows, the district is projected to save a total of $538,000 in five years and $5.8 million in 10 years. Within the first month, the program saved the district $28,627.
So far, the district is reporting a $266,301 savings in electricity, $39,839 savings in natural gas and $6,445 savings in water.
The main focus of the conservation project has been shutting down electronics when they are being unoccupied. District staff have also been looking at the efficiency of mechanical systems at each site.
Turning the lights off after school and shutting off monitors are simple tasks that could be used at home to save a little money but in the school district, just practicing habits of shutting things off can save thousands of dollars, Walker said.
In the school district there are over 4,000 computers active on a daily basis compared to a couple of computers in an average household, leaving the savings from practicing good habits adding up to over thousands of dollars through the district go green program, he said.
When Walker first started the program, he said almost everything was left on when it was unoccupied. Now, about 60 percent to 70 percent of electronics are turned off when not in use.
“We are trying to be more fiscally and environmentally responsible,” he said.
To keep adding up the savings for the district, Walker has sent out a daily energy checklist to remind teachers and staff to turn their electronics off — especially during breaks like Thanksgiving or Christmas, Walker said.
Getting the word out about energy conservation has had a big impact on savings, but the other half of the savings comes from weekly audits of each school site.
Walker does about 10 to 15 audit checks a week to check up on the usage of electricity at each school site, he said. He leaves each classroom with a note thanking the teacher for their energy conservation or with a reminder of some of the electronics left on.
The program has developed energy efficient awareness and created extra savings for the district, Walker said. His goal, however, is to spread energy conservation awareness throughout the community.
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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