The use of gas, water and electricity has gone down, down, down at Athenian School in Danville as has its garbage headed for the landfill. As a result it was the only school among 250 winners of California 2009 Waste Reduction Awards Program.
Stewarding the earth is one of the core values at the school since it was founded in 1965. Athenian has been recognized as a Green Power Partner by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its "green" power purchase of solar energy; and named a winner of the 2009 Waste Reduction Awards Program by the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB), for doing its part to divert waste from landfill.
"We are not only helping to save the planet, we are also saving on our operating costs," said Bob Oxenburgh, director of Finance and Facilities. "We've saved an entire tuition fee in energy costs from five years ago, and I would rather be putting that money towards a child's education than landfill costs any day."
Gas (therms): from 39,800 in 2006-07 to 24,100 in 2008-09
Water (gallons): from 11,740,000 in 2006-07 to 8,860,000 in 2008-09
Electricity (kWh): from 714,000 in 2006-07 to 701,000 in 2008-09
Landfill haulage (cu. yards): from 2,058 in 2006-07 to 1,758 in 2008-09
% of haulage recycled: from 51% in 2006-07 to 59% in 2008-09
The School has also been awarded a $5,000 grant from the Alliance for Climate Education for environmental initiatives during the 2009-10 school year. These projects include creating a carpool Web site, producing biodiesel fuel for school buses, and converting an Athenian transportation vehicle to electric power.
During the past five years, Athenian has reduced the amount of trash hauled by 25 percent. The ratio of landfill to recycle has improved from 70/30 to 50/50 by weight, achieved by redirecting more trash to the Earth Tub composting system, increasing student-led recycling efforts across the campus, and educating students about the need to care for the environment. The school's goal is to reduce landfill trash to 30 percent by 2012.
Solar panels in the shape of an "A" were installed last year, which provide 50 percent of the school's electricity needs. In addition, solar panels on the roof of the new Eleanor Dase Center provide electricity for that building and panels on the gymnasium's roof heat the pool. The solar "A" produces 350,000 kWh per year, which is equivalent to the amount of electricity needed to power 24 homes for a year, or has the equivalent impact of avoiding the carbon dioxide emissions of 32 passenger cars annually, saving 19, 500 gallons of gas, or 400 barrels of oil.
The EPA's Green Power Partnership (www.epa.gov/greenpower) works with partner organizations across the country to voluntarily purchase green power to reduce the environmental impacts of conventional electricity use. Green power electricity produces no net increase in greenhouse gas emissions. CIWMB (www.ciwmb.ca.gov) promotes a Zero Waste California in partnership with local government, industry, and the public.
"In order to uphold Athenian's commitment to the environment, we must do all that we can to model good practices for our students, who will be inheriting the earth from us," said Oxenburgh.