Detroit schools put together sustainability plan

The Detroit school district is putting together a comprehensive Sustainability Management Plan that will focus on six areas: energy, waste management, transportation, indoor environments, outdoor environments and nutrition.

Educators, students and parents as well as an array of partners will have a part in carrying out the plan.

“By working to improve environmental factors—including thermal comfort, lighting, sound, and air quality—our students will be more comfortable in class and better able to concentrate on learning,” the district says.

Among the district's sustainability initiatives:

  • The construction of seven schools to LEED green building standards. These schools use less energy and water and provide more daylight, more healthful indoor air quality and better acoustics.
  • Negotiating with Detroit Edison to operate solar energy systems at two schools. The solar leases will generate $480,000 in lease payments to the districtand generate enough green electricity for more than 150 Detroit households for 20 years.
  • Improve nutrition in school meals: no fried foods, no pork, whole grains, local produce, and meatless days.
  • Using utility management software, the district office of energy management has recovered $195,000 in billing errors from utilities.
  • Launching a Go Green Challenge. The district says 54 schools have signed up to participate in the challenge, which aims to help schools reduce energy costs and share in the savings through engaging students, faculty and staff in best-practice energy management. Schools that reduce costs by 10 percent will win $1,000. Each of the schools has established a Green Team of students, teachers and facility managers. Students can also become energy monitors at their schools and will receive badges and patrol duties such as inspecting for lights and computers left on, wasteful small appliances, damaged or missing weather stripping or other energy leaks to the outdoors, and opportunities to replace old lights with newer efficient models.
"We are also implementing best-practices in green and sustainable school management," says the district's emergency financial manager, Roy S. Roberts. "These best-practices help boost student achievement and help prepare our next generation for the jobs of the future by teaching them about sustainability and the role it plays in preserving our future."

Each program in the sustainability plan is designed to have financial, academic, and community health benefits, the district says. A bus route efficiency/anti-idling program is designed to cut fuel costs, as well as reduce asthma-related illnesses by reducing emissions. A cost-effective integrated green cleaning and pest-management approach will eliminate use of herbicides and reduce toxins indoors, while helping students and their parents learn about air quality best practices and reducing the overall amount of toxins entering ground water.

"How we use energy in our schools not only has an impact on the financial bottom line, it also directly affects student achievement," district Energy Manager Emile Lauzzana in a news release. "By working to improve thermal comfort, visual acuity, and air quality, our students will be more comfortable in class and better able to concentrate on learning. If a student is too hot or too cold, or they are in an under- or over-lit class room, this impedes their ability to concentrate and increases off-task behaviors, school absences and illnesses."
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