Throughout Glenview School District 34, small changes have added up to big savings. The district has reduced energy costs by more than 26 percent in the last 19 months by simply shutting off unused lights and closing classroom doors.
Total savings: more than $500,000.
"We're asking people to change their behavior, and that makes a difference," said Brett Clark, leader of the energy-saving program for the district.
The initiative is based on employees becoming more aware of their energy usage said Clark, who is also the school system's executive director for communications and strategic planning.
For nearly two years, the district has worked with Energy Education, a conservation service company based in Texas, to cut its energy costs and reduce its carbon footprint. The District pays $9100 per month for Energy Education support.
Employees are seeing noticeable effects by simply adjusting their habits, such as shutting down all electronics at the end of the day, avoiding stacking items on heating and air conditioning vents, and closing blinds when rooms are not in use.
Further measures include tailoring heating and cooling needs at district buildings, said Christensen. Adjusting the temperature in the buildings during the regular school months and summer months has saved money, she said.
Students are also getting involved by reminding teachers to turn off lights in empty rooms and to check that doors are closed, Clark said. "It's become a part of their habits," he said.
District 34 recently received the Pacesetter Award from Energy Education, acknowledging its success and holding it up as an example for other school systems.
Jan Noel-Smith, director of public relations for Energy Education, said the company has helped more than 1,000 clients save as much as $2 billion over its 25-year history.
"The goal is to allow energy to be used as needed, but never wasted," she said. "We ask each person in the district to take charge of the energy in their control."
Noel-Smith said energy conservation is important for schools, especially now. "School budgets are in crisis across the nation," she said. "Money they don't have to spend on energy can save teacher jobs."
Energy Education guarantees the savings will exceed the amount a district spends on the program. If this guarantee is not met, the company will pay the difference.
In Glenview's case, the savings have far exceeded the amount spent by the district.
As part of the district's investment to save energy, Christensen was hired to audit its buildings at various times throughout the day. She has been trained in energy-saving strategies by Energy Education to help the school system stay on course with its energy goals.