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NKSD is conserving energy one classroom at a time

Katie Butler’s idea for energy conservation earned a $1,000 prize from Johnson Controls Inc. - Darryl Elves/Courtesy photo
Katie Butler’s idea for energy conservation earned a $1,000 prize from Johnson Controls Inc.
— image credit: Darryl Elves/Courtesy photo

POULSBO — “More than 4 million plastic bottles are used every hour and only one out of four is recycled,” began Katie Butler’s Igniting Creative Energy contest paper.

Little did Katie know her paper would change the North Kitsap School District. Now a sixth-grader at Poulsbo Middle, she wrote the paper for Darryl Elves’ fifth grade class at Poulsbo Elementary.

Last year as a class project, Elves had his students write papers for the Johnson Controls Inc. Igniting Creative Energy contest, and used the contest as a catalyst for students to investigate resource conservation.

Katie’s paper focused on wiser ways to use energy and how to use less plastics.

Elves submitted the papers to Johnson Controls Inc. and this was the springboard from which NKSD launched a district-wide energy reduction contest.

“Katie has a real flair for writing,” Elves said, “and sure enough three months after the contest she was a finalist and it turns out she was a winner.”

Katie’s essay won $1,000 from Johnson Controls Inc.

When Elves realized Poulsbo Elementary had $1,000 he felt compelled to keep the contest going, so he asked Katie, and she agreed.

“I thought that was a really good idea because it would have an impact on more people,” Katie said.

About $500 will go toward staff-participation parties in June.

Elves got NKSD Director of Finance Nancy Moffatt and Director of Facility Operation Dave Dumpert to join the contest bandwagon. All agreed it was a great idea.

Each of the district’s 12 schools will compete to see which building can save the most between the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years. The contest began Nov. 5.

Dumpert, who’s basically made a life’s career out of conserving energy resources, is thrilled to see what results from the contest.

“The majority of the people in this district are energy and green conscious and they want to do what’s right for the planet,” Dumpert said. “I think it will generate a lot of enthusiasm and success.”

Perhaps the niftiest part of the contest is when it’s finished each school will get 10 percent of the savings it generated for the building budget.

Contest aside, the district has already taken steps to reduce energy use.

A few years back NKSD started participating in Puget Sound Energy’s Energy Performance Contracting program. In this program a firm came to the district and audited its buildings and developed means to cut back on energy use through energy retrofitting. The district then took out a loan to cover the costs of the energy upgrades, and the greatest part is the savings will more than pay off the cost of the loan, which has a 10-year payback period.

Dumpert said the first wave of retrofitting done on the five schools not touched by the 2001 bond — Kingston Middle and Breidablik, Gordon, Vinland and Wolfle elementaries — cost $702,000.

Dumpert said so far the energy savings have equated to approximately $82,150 per year and the payback amount it $74,000.

Dumpert estimates the district will be completely finished with retrofitting all the buildings by the fall of 2009.

For purposes of the contest, the buildings are broken into two groups, the buildings that’ve had energy upgrades and those that haven’t.

It’s too early to gauge which building is conserving the most and Dumpert was tight-lipped on which buildings will have the most to cutback.

He recommends turning off the computer, as Washington State University recently saved $30,000 by installing a program that turns off its computers.

Elves said it’s all about forming new habits and looking at different ways to use energy. He no longer turns on all his lights, only three of the six switches, and keeps the doors closed to conserve on heat.

Although Katie is still young, she’s begun to change some of her own habits, thanks to her part in the contest.

“If I use a plastic bottle I’m like, ‘Oh I have to recycle that.’ It’s not hard to recycle a plastic bottle so why not,” she said. “Get involved, recycle. Just do what you can community wise.”

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