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Em-Powering Schools with Alternative & Multi-Purposes

Schools provide new opportunities for power generation, water conservation, habitat...and localism.

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green sustainable education and schools I read an article recently about a British school that has a very windy site. An enterprising energy management coordinator put his thinking hat on and decided that the wind might power a wind generation installation.

That got me to thinking...what other empowering benefits could be co-located on school properties? After all, schools have more land around them than most homes and businesses in their nearby community. They are used only about 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. That leaves 16 hours a day, two days a week during the school terms...and 24/7 during vacation times.

Green projects have the potential to save money, help the environment, and become a tool for teaching. Those times and spaces could be used for other community enhancing resources.

Each school's campus differs, of course. But here are some out of the schoolhouse ideas. Could these school grounds and spaces (and natural resources) be used for...

  • wind energy
  • solar energy
  • geothermal energy
  • community gardening
  • park and open space
  • biofuel production from waste
  • recycling and reuse center
  • native plant communities and wildlife habitat
  • runoff remediation
  • pond or wetlands to replenish the water table
  • vegetation to reduce urban heat islands
  • local food coop / farmers market location
  • exercise center
  • craft work center
  • work-near-home office center to reduce commuting
  • teach green job skills
The possibilities are mind boggling. Land is a precious luxury for most urbanites -- both for families and small local businesses -- which are the productive engine that supports our basic life support needs such as clothing, food, water, air and increasingly, energy. Can we teach our children about productivity by making them part of a productive, multi-use facility that serves local needs?

I remember when our son was in school and I was an active parent. When I suggested we open the school to community meetings I was met with the objection that bringing more people into the building increases maintenance costs and that wasn't feasible.

Maybe the time has come that we are starting to think beyond costs ... to new ways of being a village -- distributed energy, multi-use of our public facilities to reintegrate our children into the productive fabric of a working, sustainable community. Maybe the farmers of past centuries had it right -- everyone has to contribute to survival. <,/b> And apprenticeships start very young if we want to instill a work ethic, a community ethic...and citizenship skills.

Think about YOUR local schools. What are their natural attributes (I almost said "natural resources"...)? How could you encourage higher productivity of your local public property that is not being fully employed in this time of environmental and workforce crisis.

Think about heat remediation. Water conservation. Habitat conservation. Community life support for your local families. Think ACTIVE. Think co-generation. Think outside the schoolroom.

Carolyn Allen

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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