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Whitnall aims for a healthy shade of green

Program looks to save energy and use safer cleaning products

Sept. 25, 2008

Seeking to save dollars and “go green,” the Whitnall School District has started a program to specifically increase energy savings and generally create a healthier environment in local schools.

The energy savings push is part of Energy Star, a program introduced to state schools by Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton. Launched by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the program is designed to reduce energy consumption in state public schools.

The district is one of more than 30 throughout the state that have joined the program.

Locally, the primary goal is to increase savings at schools that were built before energy consumption became a priority, District Superintendent Karen Petric said in a recent press release.

A detailed effort

Matt Karshna, building and grounds supervisor for the four-school district, said energy savings involves more than just turning off the lights in the gym locker rooms.

“It’s installing equipment that’s efficient. It’s setting back thermostats and controls to maximize their energy savings and yet maintain the health environment that students need,” Karshna said.

The district will, in effect, grade itself on how well its efforts are working, he said.

“We want to measure and track energy and use that data to make decisions about being a little more ‘green,’ ” Karshna said. “But the bottom line is that we need to save more money on our utilities. Obviously, turning off the heat and the power is going to safe us money.”

‘Green’ in other ways

Another initiative is tied to the school’s environment steps behind energy efficiency.

Karshna said Edgerton Elementary School has been tabbed this year to be a “green” pilot program.

“We’re using (environmentally friendly) hand-soaps and cleaning chemicals,” he said. “A foaming hand soap that is ‘green’ doesn’t contain all the alcohol that’s going to irritate the hands and eyes. … We’re also piloting one manufacturer’s green line of (cleaning) chemicals at Edgerton.”

Karshna said such cleaners don’t contain as many hazardous chemicals as those used in conventional cleaners used by custodians.

While the cost for the safer products is somewhat more expensive than other products, the difference is not enough to significantly impact the budget, and measured use of the cleaners should result in long-term savings, he said.

“Going green means using less product,” Karshna said. “You wind up using fewer chemicals and the chemicals that are going down the drain are safer. The mops you use are a better quality so that you can launder them, and (you) don’t throw them away as often and not as many wind up in a land-fill.”

Edgerton Principal Chris D’Acquisto said the program so far is going well.

“I’ve talked to (a custodian) here and he said it’s going very well as far as cleanliness and so forth,” D’Acquisto said.

Karshna said the green program will likely be introduced at the district’s three other schools — Hales Corners Elementary and Whitnall middle and high schools — beginning next school year.

John Neville can be reached at (262) 446-6609.

BY THE NUMBERS

10

estimated percentage of how much the Energy Star Program will save the Whitnall School District per year

36

public school districts in Wisconsin in the program

$6 billion

amount public schools throughout the country now spend per year on energy costs

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