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Energy Educator Column

Energy Educator lightbulbWatch the Big Yellow School Bus

What does a big yellow school bus have to do with our energy conservation program? The answer may surprise you.

Recently, I told the Board of Education that our district has avoided more than 1.9 million dollars in utility expenses over the last six years. A board member jokingly asked “What can we do about the fuel costs for our buses?” Actually, did you know our drivers conserve a considerable amount of energy each day by shutting down their buses when they are not needed?

This may seem like common sense, but it has not always been the case. From the time a bus pulls into a school parking lot and parks to wait for students, several minutes may pass by. Years ago, many buses would leave their engines idling — and why not — they would be leaving shortly, right?

This is no different than someone walking out of the classroom and leaving the classroom lights on because they would be “right back.”

Turning out lights and shutting down buses is saving money for our district, while reducing the amount of pollution entering the air. This is especially important as the price of fuel, electricity and natural gas continues to go up. Did you know that if we consumed the same amount of electricity this school year as we did six years ago, we would have spent $252,000 more than we already did?

By changing the way we use equipment, we can save money immediately without laying out money. Our energy conservation program is committed to conserving energy without spending money, but there are times when items (small and large) are purchased because of funding we have received and/or the payback is so incredibly quick, it is a “no brainer.”

An excellent example of this is the Vending Misers that most of our vending machines are plugged into. When we first began installing these items, there were many puzzled looks. However, these devices keep the beverages 1-2 degrees cooler, are endorsed by Coke and Pepsi, and reduce costs by an average of 50 percent. That is considerable given the fact that we have over 50 beverage machines districtwide, which cost over $400 (each) per year to run without a Vending Miser. With the funding we were able to secure for these devices, the payback period was six weeks! We have also purchased more devices to help our buses run more efficiently.

So, the next time you see a big yellow bus, think, “What have I done lately to conserve energy, save money, and reduce pollution?” It can be as simple as flipping a switch, pushing a button, or turning a key.