Climate clever schools

If a class turns off their lights when they don't need them, does anyone care?

It may sound like a Zen question but educating staff and students about the need to save energy at home and in the school is at the core of the Climate Clever Energy Savers (CCES) program.

Over the past three years the program has helped schools statewide identify opportunities for reducing energy consumption. It's a strategy that is showing results, in reducing the education department's carbon footprint and financial bottom line.

The program stems from a memorandum of understanding between the Department of Education and Communities and the Office of Environment and Heritage and provides professional development for participating teachers, ongoing support from regional CCES staff, extensive curriculum-based resources and grant funding to support in-school energy-saving initiatives.

"Rather than doing more, teachers are being given the chance to teach things in a new way," said Illawarra CCES coordinator Ben Anderson, adding that funding of $1,000 was available to help teachers explore the resources provided and adapt them to their needs.

In the Illawarra and South East region more than 100 teachers and 3,000 students had already participated in the CCES program.

"These classes have worked with staff from the Illawarra environmental education centre to analyse their school's energy use, investigate where this energy is coming from and what the impacts are on the environment," said Mr Anderson.

"The students and teachers have then created energy-saving strategies and implemented these with funding provided by CCES. This is now translating into real financial savings for these schools."

Feedback from participants had indicated the grants provided were a key element of the program's success as the funding helped translate ideas into action.

Over the past three years more than $110,000 had been issued to schools. Another element that was welcomed was having someone come into the school to help identify opportunities for improvement.

Although the CCES program had focused on energy consumption within DEC schools, reports were showing students took this energy-saving attitude beyond the classroom.

"I've had many parents tell me about the changes in their child's behaviour, like turning off appliances on stand-by and switching off lights. That makes me feel great as it reinforces the fact that what students learn in their school changes their behaviour, and if that is something that helps the environment, then I am all for it," said Mr Anderson.

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