Editor’s note: The first part of this article appearred in the April 26 issue.
By John R. Newman, Idyllwild Arts Academy Dean of Students
This winter we completed a comprehensive energy audit, sponsored by Southern California Edison, and have retrofitted close to 100 percent of the campus with compact fluorescent light bulbs and motion sensors, including the pathways and exterior “barn” lighting, which were formerly high pressure sodium bulbs.
This project alone has reduced electrical usage more than 30,600 kilowatt hours each school year. Prior to retrofitting outdoor lighting, electricity usage was 42,000 kWh each school year, equating to 64,700 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere. After retrofitting, usage is 11,400 kWh annually, or 17,600 pounds of carbon.
Retrofitting the outdoor lights therefore saves approximately 47,100 pounds of carbon from being emitted into the atmosphere.
We have instituted new “shut-down” protocols during extended vacation periods. All classrooms and dormitory thermostats are set to 60 degrees; 95 percent of all barn lighting is turned off; dormitory hallway lights are turned off; and the Troy practice rooms and area to the east of campus are “blacked out.”
We began an initial energy audit for our ceramics program with kiln expert/conservationist and former Idyllwild Arts Summer faculty member, Bruce Dehnert, and have begun a full-scale weatherization audit for all buildings.
We have purchased and installed programmable thermostats in 70 percent of all classrooms and in our biggest residence hall, Pierson Dormitory.
Planned or soon to be implemented projects
We have plans to upgrade other dorms with locked, programmable, centrally-located thermostats to monitor and control energy usage.
In order to be more fuel efficient in our transportation and plant vehicle fleet, we have contracted with a fleet management firm to acquire, maintain, and cycle new passenger vans with considerably improved fuel economy and lower mileage to accommodate a huge demand for student transportation. We are exploring options for introducing highly efficient “mini trucks” to the Maintenance fleet, and possibly some electric and/or hybrid vehicles on campus.
We have been researching a variety of programs to improve campus recycling efforts. We have always had a basic recycling program, encouraging students and staff to be responsible about separating trash and recyclable materials in clearly-marked receptacles around campus and in the dorms. We are working with the Idyllwild School recycling and fundraising projects to collect electronic recyclables such as cell phones, batteries and computer parts.
We are converting to a fully paperless student record-keeping system in our health center and main administrative office to conserve paper and comply with state and federal privacy mandates. We have written two letters of support for Idyllwild Water District’s proposed water reclamation project, and have met with representatives from Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council regarding ideas as far reaching as a biomass generating station that would address issues of fire abatement and “gasification” for renewable energy.
The substantial savings from the outdoor lighting retrofitting is a concept which we are are trying to establish throughout the school’s activities, including our curriculum.
The extraordinary teaching and learning our school is experiencing this year is serving the community from a financial and educational standpoint. The educational piece is hugely important for us, not only because we are a school, but because we want to instill values and habits that allow us to continue to grow and prosper.
We are exploring curriculum design for a new course, tentatively called “A Sense of Place,” focusing on our school’s connection with the land, the rich history of Cahuilla culture in Idyllwild, principles of sustainability, and the history of environmentalism as a cultural movement.
Our environmental studies class, led by Martha Ellen Wingfield, conducted extensive analysis of the campus lighting use. This work helped inform operational decisions. The class has undertaken several other projects, too.
The environmental studies class has spearheaded plans for the proposed new campus garden. Students have developed a planting schedule, maintenance plans, and design schematics for an 8x8 plot with raised beds divided into four equal sections, each holding three plant varieties. It will be centrally located on campus and will also include a greenhouse, a tool shed and storage space, an “outdoor classroom,” and a compost heap.
Staff and students’ investigations have not been limited to the Academy’s campus. We sent a staff member and four students to the National Green Schools Conference in Denver in February. Another group of faculty and students took a field trip to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in March to facilitate “a sense of place.”
Other campus opportunities
The work and future prospects of the food subcommittee is enticing students and staff. This group works closely with our contract food service provider to implement greater purchases of local, organic produce and other foods. We are seeking community partners to identify local farms and wish to continue to reduce ours and others’ carbon footprint by partnering for food delivery on the Hill.
This year we initiated a “trayless” option in the dining hall to help reduce food waste and save water. We are laying the groundwork for a food composting system to lessen food waste in landfills, and we are recycling waste cooking oil — about 250 gallons a year — which is reused for energy.
In our marketing, we have done extensive public and internal messaging about our school’s sustainability efforts, again as a way of garnering support and energy, and generally educating the community. We are coordinating the information gathered from each of the six sustainability subcommittees to publicize our goals through social networking channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and the Idyllwild Arts Academy online publication, “Centerstage.”
For example, there is an Idyllwild Arts “Greenies” group page on Facebook to raise awareness and serve as a platform for discussions, ideas and projects related to sustainability. The community of Idyllwild is welcome to join and participate. Please feel free to contact me at [email protected] , or contact our sustainability guru, Shannon Jacobs, at [email protected].