Last time I rapped at ya, I mentioned that Referendum 52 is all different sorts of awesome for our student’s learning environment. Well, it turns out it is equally awesome for Washington’s natural environment – predominately by reducing energy use. When we pass R-52, hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians will be gainfully employed to retrofit our state’s public schools. This means: new-fangled lighting, appliances, water-fixtures in schools, perpetually requiring less energy than their rusty old predecessors. Energy efficiency also stands to be improved simply from modernizing air circulation and insulation within our schools, 45% of which haven’t been updated since 1969.
Saving energy is a direct benefit to the environment at large because 17% our electricity in Washington is produced by our one remaining coal plant in Centralia. Factoring the potential energy savings from R-52 into the reality of coal production, we will be reducing our State’s CO2 output the equivalent of taking 130,000 cars off the road (meanwhile reducing other nasty byproducts of coal plants as well). The referendum explicitly prioritizes projects with the highest projected energy savings over the following 10 years.
For a more localized picture, we can also look to health benefits within our own urban/suburban environments. For the same reasons we will see students learning easier, retrofitting schools also improves the condition of the school-environment. Studies have repeatedly shown that energy efficient schools reduce the incidence of the flu and asthma attacks. This is a direct environmental benefit for Washington’s young folks and teachers.
One could also judge the benefit of reducing energy-related pollution by the reduction of energy costs to our schools. For some taking this monetary outlook is a necessity. Aberdeen School District’s business manager, Tom Laufmann, admits that counting bills is most important to him:
Philosophically, we should say it’s better for the planet.. But it’s about the money. We’re so short on money anyway, we don’t want to pay any more on utility bills than we have to.
Although we may be passionate about the importance of environmental improvements, Laufmann’s outlook is still effective for saving energy. It’s always great when economic and environmental benefits go hand in hand. Every dollar saved on energy via retrofits translates to less energy use and a cleaner environment. Tune in next week to hear stories from the Evergreen state where schools are already saving cash and saving the future at the same time.