District awarded for green efforts

Dani Simms | Staff Writer

Efforts to become energy efficient have allowed the Mason City School District to save almost a million dollars in one year, according to Mason High School Biology and Environmental Science teacher Charity Lehr.According to Lehr, one of the larger efforts to conserve energy was made when an innovative refrigeration cooling system was installed in the new wing of the school.

“At night, [the machine] makes a lot of ice,” Lehr said. “When it’s hot outside, instead of having to run the air conditioner all day, a fan blows over the ice that was made at night to help cool the building during the day. It’s offsetting some of the energy that we’re using during peak hours.”

The cooling system resulted in the school district receiving the “Trane Energy Efficiency Leader in Education Award,” due to reduced energy consumption that the refrigeration has caused. According to Trane.com, Trane is a company that, in addition to being a leader in air conditioning systems on a global scale, is dedicated to the advancement of energy efficiency around the world.

The installation of the refrigeration cooling system is due to a district-wide effort to become greener, according to Lehr. At the end of last year, Lehr said that Assistant Principal Tim Keeton asked her if she wanted to join a group called the Green Team. Lehr said that she and Words from the Wild and English III teacher Tim King were approached because she is the adviser for the Go Green Club and King’s classes are responsible for recycling throughout MHS.

“Essentially, [the Green Team] is a group of teachers and administrators from the entire district that meets once a month and talks about ideas that people from [each] building have about how [to be] environmentally friendly, energy efficient and cost effective,” Lehr said.

Though Keeton, King and Lehr are the only people who work at the high school that attend the district meetings, Lehr said that a lot of teachers and administrators are also a part of the effort.

“I just had a teacher bring to [my] attention that [the school] has all of these vending machines and the lighting is purely  just to light up the product,” Lehr said. “To run just the lighting alone it’s $40 per machine per year. So, in this building, that could be hundreds of dollars [saved], maybe even thousands of dollars in the district, just to turn off the lights from the vending machines.”

New methods to be environmentally friendly at the high school include lights in the Z-pod that turn on when motion is detected in the room, as well as the reduction of emergency lighting, which are the lights that stay on after school, according to Lehr.

According to Lehr, another change at the high school that has resulted in significant amounts of saved energy and money is the regulation of the temperature in the school.

Lehr said that if the inside temperature of the building is close to the outside temperature, less money and energy is spent.

Lehr said students will be affected not only by the temperature change, but other new efforts to be green will reach students this year.

“Some homerooms this year [will show] videos to try to help people understand our impact on this earth, to make sure that people [know] how to recycle and are [wanting] to recycle,” Lehr said.

Though some efforts to become green are fairly new, Lehr said that a lot has been accomplished in a small amount of time.

“The Green Team [started] at the end of last year, so we’ve met [only] a few times as a district,” Lehr said. “But a million dollars saved is quite impressive. We’re just trying to create a sustainable school and be responsible with what we use.”

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