Green Government: Sustainability Is About Jobs

They turned off the lights when they left the room.

And shut off computers and unplugged things.

That’s how the staff at a New Jersey elementary school cut their energy use by 52 percent and won the EPA’s 2012 Energy Star Battle of the Buildings challenge.

But that’s not the real story. Nobody really cares about the award. Sure, it’s nice. But nice doesn’t pay the bills.

I’ll tell you what this award means. One of my running partners is a fifth grade math teacher at the winning school, Demarest Elementary, in Bloomfield, NJ. I remember when she mentioned the program to me last year.

She didn’t talk about green, or energy, or sustainability. Rather, she said:

“We’re turning off lights when we leave the room and it’s going to save one of our jobs.”

The money saved on energy bills totaled up to about one staff position that wouldn’t need to get cut in annual budget negotiations.

One more teacher in the classroom, helping New Jersey kids get a good education.

This success didn’t happen in a brand-new facility with fancy solar panels, by the way. It’s a standard-issue 1950s multi-story school with large windows and cacophonous hallways. One of thousands just like it around the country.

If it can happen in Bloomfield, NJ, it can happen anywhere. And it will.

Read the full Energy Star Battle of the Buildings report.

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