A new green school in Bend, Oregon opened this fall. Miller Elementary is on the way towards obtaining LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. But before the students claim a green victory, they are already adopting practices that can help minimize the carbon footprint of the school and the students that attend.
Perhaps because Bend, Oregon only has about 80,000 residents, we could not find a video of the new Miller Elementary. But, I think this clip of another LEED-certified school sufficiently illustrates what the Miller students experience:
As outlined in a previous post here, Miller Elementary is aiming for LEED-gold certification with the following elements:
- Solar Panels: 252 panels will be installed on the roof to provide 12% of required energy. It will be the largest solar array in the region
- Other renewable energy: Participation in the Blue Sky Energy Program means that all electric power will come from renewable energy resources (wind, solar, geothermal)
- Low-Flush Toilets and waterless urinals: Water is a precious resource on the high desert!
- Sustainable Wood Products: More than half of the wood used in construction is certified as from environmentally responsible forest management
- Recycled and local building products: A considerable percentage of materials are recycled and many of them are from sources within 500 miles of the school.
- Drought-friendly landscaping: Expected to save irrigation water use by more than 60%!
- Low or no VOC-emitting paints, floors, wood and furnishings
- Preservation of natural habitat
Its not just the honor plaque that the school wishes to receive. LEED-certified buildings also get tax credits and cash incentives. What school district doesn’t need extra money? The Bend LaPine School district received about $500,000 in grants from the Oregon Department of Energy, the Energy Trust of Oregon and other groups.
While the USGBC is considering whether these building elements qualify the school for the LEED rating, Miller Elementary is taking other measures to be a green school. And, its setting a shining example for other area schools that hopefully will follow its green lead. Any visitor to the school can view a touch-screen kiosk in the lobby that illustrates the LEED features incorporated into the school’s design and shows how much power the solar panels on the roof are generating.
Among the green practices at the new school are a change from disposable eating utensils to use of washable, reusable silverware and plastic plates and cups. Fourth and fifth graders help wash dishes in the kitchen after lunch. Food waste is used to teach third graders about composting. One estimate is that the amount of trash is 1/3 less than typical schools in the district.
Hate those papers that come home from school every week as much as I do? At Miller Elementary, the newsletter is sent out 100% through email. Instead of handouts, the school uses SMART boards – white board that can be used with a computer.
Of course, the school is using its green practices and LEED elements as a learning opportunity for its students. Fifth graders will study solar energy and track the production of electricity by the school’s solar panels. Others are simply getting a common sense lesson in reducing waste and recycling. Even parents may be inspired to adopt similar practices at home.
And that is truly the value of a sound education.