5 tips for sustainability

  • 5 tips for sustainability

Why waste money on needlessly high energy bills, says Jonathan Valentine, when it’s so easy to make savings?

In most schools, the budget is always tight. Any extra money spent on books needs to be saved somewhere else. And if you want to implement the latest software or upgrade those ageing PCs, it can prove tricky to get the financial outlay signed off.

It’s odd, then, that many schools don’t identify energy bills as an area where money can be saved. Instead of trying to conserve energy for both green and financial reasons, too many schools let their bills increase year on year in the belief that this is just a necessary expense. But it doesn’t have to be this way; reducing your school’s energy consumption is not a time-consuming process, and done right, it frees up budget that can be reinvested in resources that impact teaching and learning directly.

That’s not the only benefit, either. With a power management strategy in place, your school can teach students about the environment and the positive effects of energy-saving schemes in a location they know very well.

Let’s look at five methods you can use to start reducing your school’s energy bills.

1. If it’s on, switch it off

From lights in classrooms, to computers left on overnight (and sometimes over the weekend), it’s surprising, and occasionally shocking, when you realise how much money can be saved by following this simple rule. Having a member of staff patrol the school to do this is often not the best use of that person’s time, so make it a school-wide policy instead.

Encourage students and staff to switch off any lights they see on in empty classrooms, and close down appliances that obviously aren’t in use. Not only will this cut down your bills, it will give students a sense of ownership over their school community. You can even extend this by asking students to research the environmental effect of leaving computers on overnight and tell the whole school about it in assembly, or use form times to design posters on the benefits of switching things off.

2. Keep your equipment up-to-date

You can make huge savings simply by ensuring that your machinery is up-to-date. Over the last decade we’ve seen major advances in green technology, so it’s likely that the decade-old projectors in your classrooms are actually costing you more to run than they would to replace. Begin by examining the technology you use most regularly: what are their energy efficiency ratings? Would investing in newer technology save the school money in the long run?

It doesn’t stop with simply upgrading to greener appliances, however. If you’re lucky enough to already have state-of-the-art equipment, make sure it’s well maintained and inspected often for potential problems. It might be expensive to fix problems as they occur, but ignoring them will cost you far more in the long run.

3. Don’t use the heating when you don’t need it

In the depths of winter this might sound like an outlandish suggestion, but it’s one that is often overlooked when we reach the warmer parts of the year. While schools do need to stay at an optimum temperature to create a comfortable environment for students and staff to work in, overheating the school is as detrimental as not heating it at all – and not just to your budget.

The best way to cut down on the expense of heating is to use common sense – the heating levels you need in January are going to be higher than the ones you need in May, even with the notoriously unpredictable British weather. By managing these levels effectively you’ll see a big reduction in your energy bills.

4. Use data effectively

Data is the key to reducing energy consumption, helping you to unlock where your money is being spent and as a result, how to reduce your spending. By adopting a data-driven approach, you can cut costs without affecting teaching and learning by sacrificing the time spent using your equipment. There are systems which will help you gather and study this data, but you can start by taking a closer look at your energy bill. Has the cost of one part of it spiralled out of control?

With this information at your disposal, you can identify where energy is being consumed unnecessarily and inform your decisions to cut energy costs appropriately, whether that’s putting daily printing limits in place or upgrading your appliances.

5. Think about the whole school, not just the classroom

Don’t let the above advice fool you into thinking that energy-cutting can only happen in the classroom, however. There are savings to be made across your whole school, from the kitchen and canteen, to the support offices. How much energy could you save by switching off the unused computers in these areas, or by turning off the lights in the toilets? Make any school-wide initiative to reduce energy consumption truly school-wide, and you’ll see a big difference in your next energy bill.

The cost of running a bustling school can be reduced dramatically by managing your power consumption. Taking simple steps to cut down on waste and implementing energy usage policies will save you money and promote an environmentally-friendly outlook to your students –encouraging them to do the same in their own lives.

About the author

Jonathan Valentine is CEO of Impero Software.