Classrooms Monitored by the Green Team

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Sixth-grader Sophie Chang stood in front of a computer monitor near a teacher’s desk in a darkened classroom at Julius West Middle School in Rockville. “Yeah, it’s not off. That’s not good,” she said, flicking off the power switch and making a note on a sheet of paper. But the lights were off and the blinds and windows closed, so she gave Room 126 a score of three points out of a possible four on a report card issued by the school’s Green Team, an after-school club dedicated to promoting energy conservation among students and staff members.

Chang and fellow members of the Green Team, which meets Wednesdays, were conducting one of their regular spot-checks to find out whether teachers were taking some simple steps to conserve energy. “Let’s see if the teachers are any more efficient than they were before winter break,” Green Team sponsor and science teacher Nancy Dorne said before the students, armed with report cards that they would tape to classroom doors, fanned through the hallways.

As the classrooms were being checked, about two dozen other team members collected paper, bottles and cans for recycling from blue bins outside classroom doors. The team at Julius West is among 42 Green Teams at county middle and high schools, all organized under the school system’s Green Schools program, which promotes efficient and responsible energy use, program manager Karen Anderson said. Schools must apply to be part of the program; those that are accepted are given tools, such as light meters and infrared temperature guns, to measure energy use.

Schools compete for annual awards of up to $5,000 based on a percentage of energy savings. During the 2006-07 school year, Julius West received $3,400. Four middle and four high schools received $5,000: Winston Churchill High School in Potomac; James Hubert Blake High School in Silver Spring; Damascus High School; John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring; Kingsview Middle School in Germantown; North Bethesda Middle School; Silver Spring International Middle School; and Tilden Middle School in Rockville.

Last year, the school system saved $1.2 million in electricity costs through conservation measures implemented by Green Teams, said Anderson, who initiated the Green Schools program five years ago. “Electricity is our most expensive fuel, and [conservation measures] can make a huge difference here,” she said. Anderson said that the measurement tools help students and staff members understand the concept of energy, which can be difficult to grasp because it isn’t tangible. “But if you can measure it, it suddenly becomes real,” she said. Green teams focus on conserving energy by promoting actions such as turning off lights and computers when not in use.

With the help of teams, some schools have reduced the amount of fluorescent lighting and replaced bulbs with more efficient ones. Continue reading

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