Green Team saves school thousands

NEWPORT BEACH — Mariners Elementary School's effort to lower electricity use by turning off lights and unplugging unused gadgets has resulted in lower electricity consumption — and bills.

The Newport Beach school is one of 14 in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District working with Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Alliance to Save Energy to go green and put money back in the schools' pockets.

Mariners has shaved $2,637 off its electrical bill so far this year by lowering its average usage 13.6%.

"We're getting money for the school, which will help us get new computers," said Student Body President Brett Bell, 12.

The school's student council and Green Team gathered Tuesday before school to strategize how to improve their results and get the latest update on how the project is doing.

The team's efforts are progressing, with the school's energy savings jumping from about 4% earlier in the year to 21.2% in March, said Sophia Schwarzenbach, 12, who serves as a sixth-grade energy executive.

"It's all because of your hard work," third-grade teacher Pat McLaughlin told the council. "In the beginning of the school year, you really put in the effort to monitor classrooms."

The students were given a diagnostic toolkit from the Alliance to Save Energy at the beginning of the school year to measure energy usage while appliances are on and off, and how much energy is lost through cracks in doors and windows, Brett said.

The Green Team also patrols classrooms, making sure lights are being used at half power, paper is recycled, and lights, computers and appliances are shut off at night, said Claire Covina, 11, a fifth-grade energy commissioner.

"The teachers are really cooperating and the students are really trying to help," Claire said.

Mariners has one of the highest savings averages of all the elementary schools is the district, said Jennifer Alvarez, the Alliance to Save Energy's Southern California project manager.

"You guys are doing awesome compared to the other schools," she told the students.

The green schools program will be expanded to all district schools next year, Alvarez said.

Half of the money saved on the electric bill will come right back to the school, said fifth-grade teacher Matt Evans. The rest will go to the school district.

Participating schools will come together after school May 25 for an end-of-the-year celebration and awards ceremony. Mariners is up for two of the energy-saving award categories, Alvarez said.

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