Schools, a program of Colorado based nonprofit Resource Central, is a
powerful energy conservation competition that gets students and staff in
schools across the nation excited about responsible energy use. Schools
use real-time energy gauges to monitor electricity use and see the
immediate impact of making energy-saving changes. Renew Our Schools has
run 20 competitions since 2008, involving more than 200,000 students,
helping schools reduce energy use by up to 25% and save thousands of
Renew Our Schools’ vision is to provide an effective
energy-based learning experience in which students learn that small changes can
lead to big impact. Schools save energy and money but it is so much
more—students become passionate leaders who unite their schools around a central
cause. Our program is important because students use exciting technology to have
an impact on a real-world problem—climate change.
Resource Central is an innovative
nonprofit with the mission to put conservation into
action. Our programs have helped more than
700,000 people conserve energy, save water, and reduce waste. The organization
was founded in 1976
by a group of
community-minded citizens seeking ways to help reduce our dependence on
non-renewable resources. With more than four decades of experience,
Resource Central is a highly respected
nonprofit working to achieve measurable environmental impact through individual
empowerment and education. https://resourcecentral.org
Renew Our Schools: Inspires the next generation
of conservationists by helping kids unleash their creative powers and take
action to lower their energy use and influence others through energy
Renew Our Schools began in
2008 with a focus on schools within the Boulder Valley School District
(Colorado) competing to win solar installations, the arrays being installed with
a real-time energy monitor called eGauge. Within a few years the competition
grew to include both energy savings and occupant behavior changes, which we now
call School Energy Actions. The program flourished in the state of Colorado with
support from generous funders including the Innovo Foundation and the Colorado
Energy Office. Until 2019, only Colorado schools had participated. Now we are
proud to say that schools have participated from across the country including
from Wisconsin, California, and Texas, and with interest growing
nationwide. including from Wisconsin, California, and Texas, and with interest
Outreach to schools/school districts to
Many schools or organizations hear about our
program by word of mouth or through an organization or foundation willing to
sponsor schools. Once a school decides to commit, we gide them through the
steps on the Program Roadmap above.
Outreach to schools/school districts to participate
Development of curriculum
We have designed the curriculum to meet the needs
of many different learning styles and subjects. There is something for
everyone! We strive to make the curriculum meaningful and valuable…but also
Working with teachers and mentors
We strive to support our
teachers as much as possible by providing a structured step-by-step program so
that teachers feel ready to go when the competition begins. We reach out to
local energy professionals to serve as mentors who can show the teachers and
students how to use the tools, and begin the energy audit.
The Portal: Schools are provided access to our competition portal that provides
up-to-date standings for the competition, and is a place where they can access
all curriculum, resources and training videos.
Renew Our Schools Competition
Renew Our Schools
is an innovative STEAM-based K-12 energy education program that is highlighted
by a 6-week competition in which students use technology, data, and social
influence to change behaviors and reduce their school’s energy use. They earn
points for different activities that encourage the involvement of the entire
school community. Once a school decides to participate, they are:
an eGauge electricity monitor that provides real-time data of their school’s
electricity load so students have immediate feedback, reaffirming the
connection between their actions and energy outputs. For example,
the lights and immediately see a drop in electricity usage on a graph. It is a
tremendous learning tool for students and a great aide for school districts to
learn how to reduce their energy use. These devices are installed before the
competition begins and are used to track energy use during the competition.
an energy toolkit for hands-on learning with curriculum and energy-themed
activities including light meters, thermometers, kill-o-watts) for students to
analyze their school’s energy use.
with energy professionals from the community who volunteer as mentors, relieving
the burden on teachers and offering a unique real-world learning experience for
access to STEM-based activities that are age-appropriate to engage students at
all grade levels. Elementary students learn about turning off lights and use
energy meters to determine how much energy is being used by everyday appliances.
Older students develop problem solving skills and investigate energy consumption
at a deeper level. High school aged students also benefit from community mentors
who expose them to a variety of energy careers.
with on-going communication and guidance. the Renew Our School portal
provides schools with real-time results including total points, energy savings,
and each school’s standing among competing schools. The portal also provides
access to all curriculum, resources, and teaching videos.
the competition, schools can earn points in 2 ways: School Measured Savings and
School Energy Actions.
School Measured Savings:
Each participating school gets an
eGauge energy monitor
that measures the total energy use of the building. This real-time data can be
pulled up on any tablet, computer or phone and changes according to any effort
the students make. motivating the students to make more changes. Each day
they see how much energy their building is using compared to the baseline
motivating them to reduce even more.
School Energy Actions:
A collection of 20 activities aligned around the steps of an Energy Action Plan:
Plan, Promote, Educate, Motivate, and Evaluate.
Examples of how
schools can earn
energy-themed posters to raise awareness
facilities in person or virtually
school energy audit to find ways to save energy
teaching other students about energy
energy-themed announcements or videos.
new energy policies for your school.
Check out this
by Royal Oaks Elementary School, Wisconsin to see students in action!
Schools have brought experts into the schools to speak to the students and show
students what great opportunities there are in the energy profession.
Professionals such as green architects, energy consultants, utility
professionals, experts in wind, energy and water, electricians, solar installers
and energy engineers visit with students. Students also explore energy
facilities virtually. Students have visited biodigesters, wind farms, solar
homes, solar farms, coal plants, and hydrothermal plants.
At the end of the competition, points from the two categories are added up and
the schools with the most points win $2,500.
If a school wins an
award, they can use the funds to make changes to their building, making it more
energy efficient. Past winners have chosen LED lights, solar tubes for
daylighting, occupancy sensors, window tinting, solar shades and more! Prize
pools vary depending on the primary sponsor of the competition.
Schools/school districts: Any K-12 school is
eligible—private, public charter or independent. We try to prioritize schools
that are Title 1, underserved, or have high needs.
Students: We put schools into groups for our competitions based on size or
grade levels. Renew Our Schools is committed to ensuring diversity in the
demographics of our participating schools and districts.
Teachers: The program requires one teacher from each school to be the champion
but we encourage as many teachers as possible to join the efforts. The more
buy-in a school has, the better the school does in the overall competition. The
lessons are designed so that teachers of all grades and subjects can
Local experts: Local experts can volunteer to support schools by helping them
learn how to use the energy-savings tools such as kill-o-watts, light meters,
and infrared thermometers, show them how to begin the school audit, or even just
provide moral support. If a local professional understands building science,
they can use that expertise to help students understand building programming.
takes a team to make Renew Our Schools be the best experience it can be.
Since 2011, our program has reached nearly
200,000 students from 200 schools. Schools have
reduced energy use by up to 25% allowing districts to save up to $10,000
in one month of competition. Due to the
success of the program, we started receiving inquiries from schools from all
over the country, so in 2019, after many years of successful partnerships with
Colorado schools, we made the exciting decision to expand nationwide. We
have now worked with schools in five states and are
We have encouraged the
development or revitalization of over 110 Environmental Clubs that develop
measurable yearly goals and Energy Action Plans.
We have also become known as a catalyst that helps energy managers ignite
programs of their own in the district. Our reputation for offering this unique,
impactful, one-of-a-kind program has allowed us to develop a waitlist of schools
and districts hoping to participate.
The results are also shown
through the stories from individual student groups who are inspired by the
program. There are countless stories of student
success but here are a few of the highlights:
had students terrified to speak in front of others become passionate presenters
and leaders of their environmental clubs who speak to administration and school
boards about possible changes to district and school energy policies.
A student group from Summit Middle School, CO, was invited to speak on a
state-based environmental roundtable about climate change. A foundation that
was present at the roundtable was so impressed with these students that they
contacted us, leading to one of our longest partnerships with a foundation in
the history of the program.
In the Spring 2022 competition, students at Century Middle School, CO,
discovered a programming issue in their school’s energy use and alerted their
energy manager about their findings. Their discovery led the energy manager to
instate changes in all 50 district buildings, saving their district thousands
per school per year in energy costs.
Students in Aurora School District, CO, discovered a broken ice handler
after noticing their eGauge data did not decrease at night. This discovery saved
their district $10,000 per year.
We have worked with over 100 energy
professionals who have served as mentors to our schools, showing students how to
audit a building, pointing out ways to save energy, and introducing students to
careers in energy fields. Some students
have connected with mentors and have said that the program opened up doors to
them for career choices in alternative energy that they never even knew about.
program has converted school facilities staff who didn’t realize the power that
students had to change behaviors and save energy for their school buildings.
Some facilities staff started as staunch skeptics saying there wasn’t much
“savings” to be had, but after the competition, became some of the biggest
advocates of the program. Because schools save money, the program is successful
even in more conservative areas where discussing
climate change can be a taboo topic.
Hal Corin, Energy Manager, Jeffco Public Schools states, “Engaging
students in energy savings and arming them with real-time monitoring creates
ample opportunity for leadership project-based learning and immense energy
Check out this
Some schools have changed
their energy policies.
Recommendation For Replication Or Adaptation
A team effort, which includes a teacher sponsor,
facilities staff, administration and as many additional students and teachers as
possible is suggested for ultimate success.
participation, it is important to enlist the support of one’s Energy
Manager , Sustainability Coordinator, or someone at the administration
Renew Our Schools is poised
for growth across the United States. Our team is happy to talk with district
Energy Managers, Principals, Teachers, and other key stakeholders about bringing
our program to your school.
There is a cost to participate: for that
participation fee, a school receives:
Access to the portal
Energy expertise to better understand your
A tool kit full of energy-saving tools such as
light meters, kill-o-watts, and infrared thermometers
Curriculum designed specifically for the
An eGauge energy meter
A chance to win prizes!
Assistance is available for
schools who are not able to pay the registration fee.
As a non-profit, Renew Our
Schools also encourages interested foundations, state energy offices, and other
organizations working in K-12 sustainability and conservation efforts to reach
Kathy Croasdale, Resource Central - Renew Our
Schools Program Operations
303-999-3820 Ext 223
Kate Larson, Resource Central- Director of Water
and Energy Programs
303-999-3820 Ext 214