Take the lead for your district and set an example for students and the community by paying attention to your carbon footprint. For broader school-wide sustainability programs, unite with other schools to take action on climate change and the environment by joining the Green Schools Alliance. You can also become a US Department of Education Green Ribbon School and learn about resources for a healthier and more energy efficient learning environment.
Calculate Your Energy Usage
CoSN's Energy Usage Calculator provides a quick approach for estimating annual kilowatt hours and related costs for computer use by K-12 users and the related data center infrastructure. This calculator allows you to calculate your current data center and end user energy use and estimate saving of proposed energy saving projects.
Download the calculator.
Evaluate Purchases and Disposal
When it comes to manufacturing computers, peripherals, and other technology, not all vendors are equal. Alternatives are available concerning use of toxic components and energy required to fabricate and manufacture. Decisions concerning these components play into the disposal. Vendors and specialized recyclers have developed programs for salvaging and safely disposing old computers, displays and other technology.
Proper disposal of computers and other technology starts with the purchase. This is the time to determine whether you use an independent responsible e-waste provider or whether your vendor/supplier has a disposal program you would like to use. Environmentally friendly disposal is easier if there is minimal toxic content to begin with. The Center for Clean Products and Clean Technologies developed Electronics Environmental Benefits Calculator (EEBC) which is intended to assist institutional purchasers, including Federal Electronic Challenge (FEC) program participants, in quantifying the benefits of environmentally sound management of electronic equipment.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, in 2005, discarded electronics totaled about 2 million tons. It’s estimated that only about 15 to 20 percent of this was recycled. Since electronic equipment contains toxic chemicals, this can pose health and environmental risks, particularly in landfills where toxins may leak into the soil and ground water. Even from the 20 percent of e-waste collected in the US much is exported because the US is one of the few countries where it's still legal to export collected e-waste to Asia and Africa. If you’re interested in learning more about the international electronics waste problem, check the Basel Action Network (BAN). BAN has initiated a comprehensive certification program for responsible recyclers. The e-Steward Certification is the continent’s first independently audited and accredited electronic waste recycler certification program. It forbids the dumping of toxic e-waste in developing countries, local landfills and incinerators; the use of prison labor to process e-waste; and the unauthorized release of private data contained in discarded computers.
The EPA addresses a part of the "ecycling" problem and offers a regional map to help you to find information about regional and State eCycling programs. The EPA and state programs follow their respective federal/state laws. The federal and most state laws in this area are quite lax.
Tips for Getting Started
- Use EPEAT to qualify vendors with green manufacturing practices
- Research vendor and independent e-waste programs and develop your disposal policy and practices accordingly
- Employ a strong policy concerning computer donations - Don't become someone else's e-waste site
- For bulk purchases, have vendors minimize packaging material (number of boxes) and copies of documentation.
When it comes to green buildings or facilities, computers can play a role in reducing energy consumption. Computer controls for HVAC and other facility energy consumption systems can be monitored and managed for better efficiency. If the buildings' HVAC systems are not up to date, investment needs to be made to utilize centralized building environment control software, but it still pays to monitor.
Technology can also be used in various ways to reduce printing supplies and cost, employee travel and student travel. Course management systems such as Blackboard or Moodle, whether used for remote online learning or not, can save printing and supplies with electronic handling of assignments and course material. Videoconferencing and centralized computer and security management systems can save travel time and gas. Streaming video, internet tours or live videoconferencing capabilities can supplement or replace field trips.
The use of digital text books, while not specifically saving the school paper, does reduce publishers' paper and ink consumption, as well as reducing strain on students' backs.
Tips for Getting Started
- Select printers or multifunction products that offer two-sided printing to reduce paper and energy usage.
- Investigate videoconferencing as alternatives to district travel expense and time.
- Consider converting parent and staff paper forms, notices and communication to electronic website and email technologies.
- Consider centralized networked computer management software and practices to reduce support personnel travel.
- Virtual field trips allow students to "go" anywhere without using buses.
- Put student registration online - save travel