Crystal River Elementary School vies to be national energy waste-busting champ |

Crystal River Elementary School vies to be national energy waste-busting champ

Judith Kohler
The Associated Press
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado – An elementary school in the Colorado mountains is taking on a Manhattan office building and others across the country in a national competition to become the biggest energy saver.

Crystal River Elementary School in Carbondale is one of 14 participants the Environmental Protection Agency selected from 200 applicants vying to cut the most energy waste by October.

EPA spokeswoman Maura Beard said Tuesday the agency was looking for diverse buildings and people already involved with the federal Energy Star energy-efficiency program. She said Crystal River and the other school selected, Van Holten Primary in Bridgewater, N.J., have as much chance of coming out on top as the Manhattan office building owned by Morgan Stanley.

The idea, Beard said, is that anyone can make changes to significantly cut energy use. Each site is essentially competing against itself, with the winner recording the largest energy reduction. Competitors will have the energy-saving equivalent of “weigh-ins” over the next several months to gauge progress.

“Whether it’s a skyscraper in Manhattan or a school in the mountains of Colorado, they aren’t that fundamentally different,” Beard said.

The EPA wants to raise awareness about the huge energy drains commercial buildings can be. They consume roughly 18 percent of the nation’s energy at a yearly cost of about $100 billon and produce nearly 20 percent of greenhouse gases, Beard said.

Crystal River Principal Karen Olson said the school wants to save money, be more green and give students a hands-on learning experience. Carbondale Middle School teacher Michael Logan and his students are guiding the third- and fourth-graders, who will be on the lookout for energy-wasting devices and practices in the 80,000-square-foot building.

The school district’s maintenance managers are trying to make machines and systems more efficient. The school, with roughly 550 students, is also getting support from the governor’s energy office, utilities, businesses in the community and parents.

“It’s a pretty green place here in Carbondale,” Olson said. “This is good for our environment and good for our community.”

Teacher Lisa Dameron said the district hopes to save $50,000 to $70,000 in energy costs per year and earn an Energy Star rating placing it in the top 25 percent of energy savers nationwide.

If the school ends up the top energy-waste buster, the students will enjoy more than national attention.

“Around here, the way to celebrate is with root-beer floats and pizza,” Dameron said.

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