Whether you are concerned about fuel prices, global warming, or dependence on foreign oil producers like Russia or Iran, we need to find ways to reduce energy usage. Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is taking helpful steps towards this goal. For example, FCPS committed to achieve a 20% reduction of energy usage from 2013 to 2023. According to data provided by FCPS, Great Falls Elementary School (GFES) achieved this goal by 2016. According to the same data, progress at GFES has slowed since then, and other schools may not reach their goal. To accelerate change, schools can consider some simple additional steps.
For example, schools could reduce heating and air conditioning by allowing teachers and students to wear temperature-appropriate clothes. GFES installed heating and lights that switch off automatically after school but could also fully transition to energy-efficient appliances. Cafeteria menus could offer less meat, source foods locally, and switch to reusable trays and utensils. Cafeterias could also start composting systems to reduce fuel for transporting waste. GFES donates leftover supplies to schools in need but could go a step further by coordinating school supply lists between grade levels so students can reuse supplies from previous years.
Schools don’t have to act alone. Students, parents, and local governments also play important roles. Students can conserve school supplies, switch to reusable lunch containers, and use recycling bins in the classrooms and cafeterias. Students should take the bus instead of being driven to school, and parents should walk children to the bus stop instead of driving them. If parents do drive, they should at least turn off the car while waiting for the bus or at the Kiss and Ride.
Local governments can help by building safe bike lanes and sidewalks to schools, so students can go to school in a climate friendly way.
These small changes would help slow the negative impacts of global warming, which include extreme weather, such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. These changes also can prevent food insecurity, loss of livelihood and increased water conflict.
Reducing energy can involve up-front expenses, but reduces utility bills in the long-run, allowing FCPS to save money for other needs. As a resource-rich school in a resource-rich county, we can lead the way by showing other schools how these changes are climate-friendly and budget-friendly.
According to the November 2022 issue of the Economist, current emission levels will not sufficiently slow global warming. We need more drastic changes to avoid hurricanes and heat waves like those seen recently in Florida and across Europe. To do this, young people need the opportunity to practice energy conservation and learn how their actions impact emissions. It is their futures that are most at stake.