Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy New Year!

As we say goodbye to 2013 and welcome 2014, how about making a resolution to save some energy this year? It's easy if you try; just flip a switch, adjust the thermostat by a few degrees, change some light bulbs, make a conscious effort to be more efficient with your energy use this year. Thanks, everyone, for doing your part. It all adds up both at home and in our schools.
Together we are making a huge difference!
Thank YOU!!!

Wishing you a groovy and efficient New Year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Seasons Greetings!

Warm Seasons Greetings
from the Energy Efficiency Coordinator!

Just a friendly reminder whether you are leaving your classroom for break or traveling away from home over the Holidays, be sure to shut down everything before you leave including monitors, speakers, printers, copiers, projectors, etc. Any electronics drawing vampire energy should be turned off or unplugged. Every effort no matter how small truly does make a difference. Thank you for doing your part, everyone!

Wishing you a Groovy Holiday Season &
much Energy Efficiency in the New Year!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What Are You, a Penguin?

Have you ever heard that question as you stand in front of an open refrigerator? The quicker you are in and out of a refrigerator or freezer, the better it is for keeping the temperatures inside from rising. When warm air gets into the cold or frozen compartment, it causes the refrigerator to work harder to maintain optimal temperatures.

So if you have a penguin at home, gently remind them to make up their mind before they open the refrigerator or freezer and then once they do open it, ask them to not dawdle with the door open. The same can be said for leaving a door ajar while you bring in groceries or run out to the mailbox. Keep the cold air out and don't let the warm air escape by keeping doors closed between trips into the house or while you run outside for "just a sec."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Think Outside the Roll

Are you one who will dive into a present, ripping the wrapping to shreds? Or do you gingerly peel off the cellophane tape trying to preserve as much of the wrapping as possible? According to the Clean Air Council, an additional 5 million tons of waste is generated in the U.S. during the time between Thanksgiving and the end of December. 4 million tons of that is wrapping paper and shopping bags. That's about 800 million pounds of waste generated during only one month of the year. Besides reusing gift bags and ribbons, here are some other ideas to help you be eco-conscious and creative with your gift giving.
  • Make part of your gift the wrapping by using a tea towel to wrap a mug or other kitchen items.
  • Wrap up gifts with a festive scarf or fabric scraps.
  • Use a colorful bandanna for a hard to wrap item or gift cards.
  • Re-usable totes are everywhere so grab one at the checkout and make it the gift bag.
  • Use newspaper, catalog or magazine pages, even take-out menus as wrapping.
  • Cut open a brown paper bag and decorate with paint, crayons, rubber stamps, stickers, or leave plain.
Just look around your office or home and you'll be surprised what you can find to re-use or re-purpose to reduce some of that 800 million tons of waste this month.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dreaming of a Green Christmas

Want to give a green gift this year? And here green does not mean, as Lucy from the Peanuts says, cold hard cash, but green in the environmentally friendly sense. Check out this cool link: click here for the Holiday Gift Guide from Green America. There are several fun categories with all sorts of ideas for unique, green gifts.

Wishing you green and groovy Holidays!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Recycle Your Holidays

This December our district is participating in the Recycle Your Holidays™ program. The Education Service Center at 4148 Winnetka Ave N in New Hope is an official drop-off location for your old and broken holiday light strands. You can drop off lights in the lobby 7:30am - 5:00pm weekdays.

The Recycling Association of Minnesota (RAM), in partnership with the Clean Energy Resource Teams, started this first-of-its-kind effort in the country back in 2009. This program employs over 200 individuals with developmental disabilities at vocational centers throughout the state of Minnesota. Every bulb of the light strand is dismantled by vocational center clients and then properly recycled in Minnesota. Every part of the strand is recycled, even the little lights are recycled by another project partner, Green Lights Recycling.

Over the past three years, Recycle Your Holidays™ has saved 4.27 million kWh with 460,000 pounds of lights recycled because recycling is more efficient than creating new metal from scratch. This amounts to a bit over $350,000 in avoided energy costs!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Today's Energy Insight

With the Holidays just around the corner, you may be trying to decide about switching to LED (light emitting diode) lights for decorating. Here are a few points to keep in mind.
  • New LED lights can last up to 20 years, do not contain any mercury and consume very low amounts of energy.
  • Older non-LED lights used 6 hours per day can cost about $30 per month in electricity while LED lights will cost about 50 cents for the same amount of time, quite a savings comparatively.
  • Additionally, LED lights do not generate heat and remain cool to the touch making them much safer than the traditional strands of lights that can get hot and become a fire hazard.

For the most efficient decorative lighting, have you seen the solar powered holiday lights now available? These turn on automatically at sunset, have all the adjustable options like twinkling and flashing, and best of all, use no electricity.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wishing Everyone in the
Robbinsdale Area School District and beyond
a Happy, Safe and Efficient Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Today's Energy Insight

Here are some tips for an energy efficient Thanksgiving.
  • Thaw your turkey in cold water instead of the fridge (it requires more energy to keep large items cold in the refrigerator).
  • Cook multiple items in the oven at the same time.  Stuff that oven so everything cooks at once and the oven doesn’t have to be on any longer than necessary. Use ceramic or glass pans.  You can turn down the oven by 25 degrees and get the same results.
  • If your oven has a convection setting, use it.  It cooks more evenly, quickly, and it’s more energy efficient.
  • No peeking! Keep the oven door shut so you don’t increase your cook time.  Just flip on the light and look through the window.
  • Use the microwave for some of the cooking.  Microwave ovens use a fraction of the energy, compared to an oven, and cook much faster.
  • Turn down the thermostat. Between the added people and all the cooking and baking, you’ll have plenty of heat in the house.
  • Use the proper sized burners for your pots so you don’t waste energy.
  • Cook on a gas grill instead of the oven.  They are clean burning and energy efficient.
  • There’s no need to preheat the oven for the turkey.  It’s really not necessary for a long cook time.
  • Don’t use the heated drying option when you run your dishwasher.  Just let the dishes air-dry.
  • Let your leftovers cool before you store them, so your refrigerator doesn’t have to work as hard to cool the items.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Today's Energy Insight

Did you know our schools are billed twice for our electricity use? Well, technically there are two components to our school’s electricity bill - the energy charge and the demand charge. The bills we see at our homes have the cost per kilowatt hour of electricity used, but schools and other commercial buildings are also charged for their peak demand load.

Here is how electric energy is billed for a school:
1. Energy Charge (use over time): Electricity is typically metered at each school facility to determine the amount of kilowatt hours used. This meter is read each month and the difference in the readings accounts for the total consumption; school are billed accordingly.
2. Demand Charge (use at one point in time): Utility companies look at the highest peak of electric use during the month. For example, during the month of December, the total peak demand will be measured every fifteen minutes and charted on a graph. The highest electric load during the month is what the utility will bill for demand. So in other words, if one day out of the month you have everything powered to full blast, that’s the day you’ll be charged for all month.

Why does a utility company have this charge?
Electricity-consuming equipment in a school determines the school’s demand for electricity. As electric use fluctuates during the day and during various seasons, it creates unknown electric load demands for a utility company. In order to accommodate for this, the utility company needs to know the maximum amount of electricity required to provide to their customers.

How can schools help reduce this electricity charge?
Focus on reducing energy use from 11am – 2pm, since that is when occupancy and energy use are highest. In fact, lunch hour is typically the most energy-intense time of the day in a school. Building engineers are trained on how to schedule their large equipment to lower their peak demand load. It is important to understand this concept in case you do play a role in a strategy to reduce these demands costs.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Today's Energy Insight

How much money would be saved if the energy efficiency of commercial and industrial buildings in our country improved by just 10 percent?

A)  $2 million

B)  $20 million

C)  $2 billion

D)  $20 billion

Scroll down to check your answer...

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the correct answer is $20 billion! Wow! So much can be saved by just a 10% decrease.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Make it a Green Thanksgiving

Terri Bennett from the Kansas City Star recently published the following tips on how to have an eco-friendly Thanksgiving:

Do Your Part:
Top 5 Ways to Green Your Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving should be about a lot of things - family, friends, and breaking bread together. It shouldn't be about waste. This year, Do Your Part to make your Thanksgiving holiday an eco-friendly affair. To help you get started, here are my top five tips for being greener and healthier this Thanksgiving.
1. Serve local or organic foods
On a holiday that features a bountiful feast, serving organic or local food and drinks can have a big impact. When buying a turkey choose a local vendor or brush up on food label claims before you head to the market. Don't know where to start? Check out for information on local turkey sellers and information on healthier choices when doing your holiday grocery shopping.
2. Use nature as decoration
Make beautiful centerpieces and decorations with seasonal items from nature. Some examples include winter gourds, seasonal corns, or pinecones. If you use evergreen branches, let them soak for a day in a water-filled cooler to give them an extra boost of moisture. There's no need to spend big bucks on elaborate centerpieces when you can find all the ingredients in your own backyard. Add a few soy candles in various sizes for a finishing touch.
3. Rent or borrow tableware
If your guest list outnumbers your dinner plates, consider renting extra supplies from a party service. Or ask friends or relatives if you can borrow a few pieces to round out your set. Reusable napkins and cups are the most eco-friendly choice but if you must use disposables choose items that are made from recycled material or are easily recycled.
4. Use reusable "to-go" containers
When it comes to leftovers, reusable containers are the greenest choice. If you send out invitations, ask guests to help you stay green by bringing their own take-home containers. If you think a few people may forget, consider purchasing inexpensive containers as an eco-friendly parting gift.
5. Prep your vehicle for the road
And waste doesn't just come in the form of food and party supplies. If your Thanksgiving plans involve a road trip, make sure your vehicle is ready to go. First, make sure to take care of any necessary maintenance before the big day. And maximize fuel efficiency by removing unnecessary weight from the trunk and checking that your tires are properly inflated.
There's no need to wasteful this November. Do Your Part to enjoy the big feast and your family without spending extra money or creating more trash for the landfill. That's something we can all be thankful for this year.
(Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, eco-expert and author of "Do Your Part," a practical guide for everyday green living available at

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Good Question

A staff member recently asked me about the Energy Policy for RAS and why staff could not have dorm room size refrigerators in their offices or classrooms unless it was indicated in a student's I.E.P. Good question! In the procedures and guidelines for the district Energy Policy, it states "Personal appliances, microwaves, refrigerators, fans, warmers, and space heaters are restricted from classrooms and offices, unless required by an I.E.P. and a variance request has been approved."

The reason for this guideline is simple, our district is committed to ensuring that every effort is made to conserve energy and natural resources while being good stewards of our financial resources. Small changes like removing unnecessary plug loads is one low or no cost strategy we can use, especially in a district our size, to reduce our overall energy use and save money on our utility costs.

The cost to operate just two mini fridges is approximately the same as one full sized refrigerator. It is much more cost effective to remove all the personal refrigerators throughout the district and add a few standard size energy efficient models to the staff lunch/break rooms. Before this policy, some buildings had 40+ mini fridges so the savings is substantial once removed. With almost 2,000 staff members throughout the district, you can see how reducing the use of personal appliances in our buildings would make a measurable difference.

We are keeping money directly in our classrooms by making simple changes like removing personal appliances. Thanks for doing your part!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Good News

The 1st quarter results from the 2nd year of the SEE program are in and are you ready for some good news? In just three months from April - June of 2013, RAS has saved/avoided $20,635.00 in utility costs. When combined with the total from the first twelve months of the program, the amount saved/avoided since the implementation of the SEE program is $56,716.00 in total overall energy use. This is good news however, we can do better! Our reduction is 2 - 3% and our goal for this year is to reach an overall energy reduction of 10% which is totally achievable.

What can YOU do to reduce energy consumption in your classroom, office or area?
Thanks for doing your part by being energy smart!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

NO WASTE November!

Have you heard of No Shave November???
Well, how about NO WASTE NOVEMBER?

What can YOU do this month to not waste energy?

At the end of your work day, don’t wait for the auto shut down, power off your computer when you leave and while you’re at it, turn off your monitor and speakers too. And don't forget your lights or any other lights in unoccupied areas. THANKS!

All our efforts, no matter how small, add up to make a big difference!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Today's Energy Insight

Which country has the highest rate of carbon emissions in the world with close to 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide gas released every year?

A)  China

B)  Russia

C)  Canada

D)  United States

Scroll down to check your answer...

According to National Geographic, with more than 80 tons annually per household, the United States releases the most CO2 emissions into the atmosphere of any other country in the world. To put it into perspective, one pound of CO2 would fill a balloon about 2 1/2 feet wide so in one year, an average American family of 4 would fill 160,000 of these balloons, enough to fill a building 27 stories tall and 100 feet square.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Wishing Everyone in the
Robbinsdale Area School District
a very Happy, Safe and
Efficient Halloween!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Make it a GREEN Halloween!

Please remember to re-use and/or recycle your costumes and decorations. And don't forget to compost those Jack'o lanterns.  Thank you for doing your part this year to make it a GREEN Halloween!

Have a fun, safe and efficient
Halloween, Everyone!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Today's Energy Insight

The average lifespan for a LED light bulb is up to how many hours???

A) 1,200 hours

B) 20,000 hours

C) 150,000 hours

D) 500,000 hours

Scroll down to check your answer...

According to Xcel Energy, the correct answer is D, a whopping 500,000 hours!
And remember, LED bulbs use even less energy than CFL bulbs.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Today's Energy Insight

Currently, which renewable energy source provides
the United States with the most energy?

A) wind 

B) solar 

C) geothermal 

D) hydropower

Scroll down to check your answer...

And the correct answer is: D) hydropower


Solar, biomass, geothermal, wind, and hydropower energy
are all considered renewable sources of energy because they

A) can be converted directly into heat and electricity 
B) can be replenished by nature in a short period of time 
C) do not produce air pollution

And the correct answer is B.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Forgotten Door

The title of today's post sounds a little like a mystery novel. There is a door that often gets overlooked when weather-proofing because the doors leading directly outside are what first come to mind when checking for gaps and air leaks.

The forgotten door is the one between the house and the garage.  This is especially important when the garage is not insulated. Besides replacing the weather stripping around the door frame, installing a door sweep helps seal the gap between the bottom of the door and the threshold to prevent cold air from entering and warm air from escaping, or the reverse in summer months.

So there is no mystery here, just remember when checking for unwanted airflow between your house and outside, don't forget the door to the garage.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Seal the Leaks!

If you have a leaky window, you might as well leave it open three inches during the cold weather months. A crack as small as 1/16th of an inch around a window frame can let in as much cold air as leaving the window open three inches!

Here are a couple of ways to detect air leaks: 

At night, shine a flashlight over the suspected gaps while someone else observes from outside. It also needs to be dark inside and large cracks will then show up as beams of light. This method is not the best option for finding small cracks.  Shut a door or window on a piece of paper. If you can pull the paper out without tearing it, you are losing energy.
Besides windows and doors, here are a few other places to check for air leaks:

·                     Mail chutes
·                     Electrical and gas service entrances
·                     Cable or satellite TV and phone lines
·                     Dryer vents
·                     Air conditioners
·                     Exhaust fans

Thursday, October 10, 2013

MEA Break

Next week is the MEA Break, Yay! 

Before you head out the door for the long weekend, check to make sure you have shut down, turned off or unplugged any plug loads in your area, office or classroom. This includes but is not limited to:

·                     Computer monitors and speakers
·                     Smart-boards and overhead projectors
·                     Clock radios and boom boxes
·                     Copiers and printers
·                     TVs, DVD players and VCRs
·                     Audio and video recording equipment
·                     Appliances in FACS rooms and staff lounges
·                     Electronic equipment in Science labs and Art rooms
·                     Electronic equipment in Industrial Tech and Auto Shops
·                     Camera battery chargers
·                     Microphone and two-way radio chargers
Thanks for doing your part to keep us operating as efficiently as possible during a time when our buildings and schools are a lot quieter than normal.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Today's Energy Insight

According to Energy Star, if all of the households in Minnesota changed just one incandescent light bulb to an Energy Star qualified bulb, the combined individual efforts could save up to 106 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. This is enough energy to light all the households in St. Paul for nearly 180 days. Based on the average electrical rate in Minnesota, the amount of energy saved would reduce household electrical bills by a combined total of $9 million a year. AND, this simple change would prevent nearly 163 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions each year which is the equivalent to removing the annual emissions of 14 thousand cars from Minnesota roadways.