Mesa Elementary nominated for sustainability effort

Re-1 schools cut energy use by 25 percent

Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 Energy Savings Enlargephoto

Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 Energy Savings

Mesa Elementary is one of four schools across the state that has been nominated for a national Green Ribbon Schools Award.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools recognition honors schools and districts that are exemplary in reducing their environmental impact and costs. At Mesa, the school has reduced its energy consumption by more than a third over the past two years. Winners for the federal honor will be announced on Earth Day, April 22.

“We are thrilled to be considered as a Green Ribbon School,” said Mesa Elementary first-grade teacher Kate Lein.

Constructed in 1960, the 44,374-square-feet schoolhouse’s student population is roughly 400. Nearly three in four Mesa students participate in energy savings, according to 16-page Green Ribbon School application prepared by Lein.

“Our principal provides weekly environmental messages over the public address system to encourage students to be mindful of their civic responsibility to be good stewards of our corner of the planet,” Lein explained. “She praises the efforts of students who take the time to clean up trash and recycle items, as well as encourages students to be conscious of their energy and water consumption.”

According to the Green Ribbon school application, the school’s greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by almost a fifth, 126 metric tons to be exact, from April 2012 to August 2013. The school’s non-transportation energy use reduced by a third, including a 14 percent reduction in electricity and a near 40 percent reduction in natural gas.

Water consumption has also been drastically cut at Mesa Elementary. Records show the school’s annual water use in 2012 was 13,500 gallons per occupant. In 2013, the amount of water use was cut by more than half to 7,600 gallons per occupant. Specifically, domestic water use dropped by a third from 1.6 million gallons in 2012 to 1.1 million gallons last year.

The school district is in its third year of working cooperatively with McKinstry, an energy efficiency contractor, to address energy education and operational optimization. The campaigns spearheaded by McKinstry have challenged students and staff to continually assess, audit and address energy and resource consumption at school and at home, Lein said.

The listed energy savings at Mesa Elementary were achieved without any retrofits or capital upgrades, according to McKinstry program manager Ashley Ruiz.

Over the past 2 years, the Montezuma-Cortez School District has reduced its total energy use district-wide by 25 percent, Ruiz said. Energy savings were calculated by comparing the current total energy use from gas and electricity to a baseline year. All data was weather regressed, meaning that these savings numbers exclude typical fluctuations due to milder or harsher weather.

The Cortez Middle School has outperformed all other schools across the district in reducing energy costs by 42 percent since 2012. Manaugh Elementary came in a close second with 40 percent savings.

Completed energy saving upgrades include the installation of vending misers (motion sensors that send vending machines into a standby mode when not is use); lighting retrofits at the middle school, the Downey administration building, Manaugh Elementary and the high school; and a digital control system at the middle school to control the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems.

Ruiz explained an energy-performance contract allowed the district to secure a lease purchase agreement from All American Investment Group (AAIG) to fund the program. The loan is paid back over a fixed period of time entirely through energy-savings, Ruiz added.

Ruiz said initial reports indicate the program has surpassed promised savings, allowing the district to save $134,000 and reduce its carbon footprint by approximately 1,700 tons.

“Saving energy allows the district to spend less money on utilities each year, and spend more money where it belongs – on students and schools,” Ruiz concluded.