Peterson: SC Green schools save money, help environment

July 5, 2013 

Peterson

— Regardless of political affiliation, most everyone agrees on the importance of education, and improving schools in impoverished areas requires more money. But with so much school funding coming from local property taxes, where will those schools get that money? One solution is green schools.

According to Rachel Gutter, director of the U.S. Center for Green Schools, schools that are certified as showing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design are capable of saving an average of $50,000 per year. That is just for a single school. In districts with more than one LEED-certified school, savings add up. According to a February 2012 article in the Georgetown Times, Georgetown County School District has saved more than $303,364 by taking steps to become LEED-certified over the past two years. The money that school districts save on energy can be redirected to better serving the students. And in the case of net-zero schools, which produce at least as much energy as they consume, districts can even be credited money from energy companies where laws allow.

LEED is not the only green option. Any school that uses solar panels, wind turbines or geothermal science can dramatically increase its energy efficiency and also use these technologies as an extended classroom. Because these technologies are integrated into the school, students have more opportunity to access them, learn about how energy consumption affects human life in relation to the environment and get hands-on experience with the engineering and science that go into their creation.

So what’s going on in South Carolina when it comes to green schools?

There is a growing movement in South Carolina to increase the number of green schools. There are numerous LEED- and EnergyStar-certified schools, and the Green Schools Caucus at the State House has been growing under the leadership of Sen. Ray Cleary, a Republican from Georgetown. This caucus will help direct legislation in the right direction, while non-profit groups such as the U.S. Green Building Council and the Conservation Voters of South Carolina work to make improvements at schools through the Palmetto Green Schools Initiative and service projects.

With state legislators and local non-profits working together, South Carolina has a chance to become a leader in green schools. As the seeds of green-education are planted, the economic benefits are sure to blossom with them — LEED or not.

Mike Peterson

Conservation Voters of South Carolina

Columbia

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