Brentwood Elementary saves $400 with just one bright idea

Learning assistant and Green Team leader Fiona Mosher tries to be sustainable at Brentwood Elementary.

The team has planted apple trees and leads recycling and composting efforts. Last year’s team, which had 24 Grade 4 and 5 students, embarked on their first energy saving project, and by simply asking students and teachers to turn off the lights when not in use, they managed to save over $400 on energy between October and April of the last school year.

“The power of it is that it’s a simple idea, but it made people cognizant of saving power, so it wasn’t a big onerous task that one person did,” said Mosher.

They plan on using the money to buy a ‘buddy bench,’ where a child can sit on if they need a friend to play with.

Trevor Billy, energy manager for School Distirct 63 (Saanich), was tasked with reducing the District’s greenhouse gas emissions by 33 per cent of 2007 levels by 2020. They are at 15.7 per cent thus far (last year they emitted 1838 tons of GHGs), and energy savings are largely responsible for that. The district has been busy upgrading boilers, adding heat pumps, and putting lights on timers. The district is about one-third of the way through changing all its light fixtures to LEDs, which is sponsored in part by BC Hydro, which covers part of the capital costs and energy saving campaigns. Billy expects to convert every school over to LEDs in the next two years.

New lights have been on Billy’s radar for a long time, but he said that in the last 18 months, light quality improved and prices dropped dramatically, which sped their adoption. In many cases, they could retain the old fixtures and just replace the bulbs with compatible LED alternatives. Billy said he was surprised how quickly teachers and students noticed the new flicker-free bulbs.

“These new fixtures don’t buzz, they don’t hum, we just don’t have eye strain anymore,” said Billy.

The District will spend about $75,000 on LED upgrades per year, but the school district will recoup their investment in five years since they use less than half the power and last five years versus 18 months, saving labour costs. Billy said the LEDs are an easy-to-understand way to conserve energy, hoping to use that to raise awareness of energy conservation.

Shane Power, a custodian at North Saanich Middle School, said he has been complaining to Billy about the old fluorescents for some time because if one light in a tall place burnt out, it could not be immediately replaced. Instead, the district would wait until several bulbs were burned out before hiring electricians to put up scaffolding and change them all. The old fluorescents also dimmed as they aged, which he noticed during his night shift, and took a few minutes to reach full brightness. New LED bulbs were installed over a stairwell about two years ago and Power said “those lights still look like the day they put them in.”

“It’s just night and day with these lights. I can’t wait until the whole school’s done,” said Power.

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