School's sustainability is increasingly productive

Huntington Beach High School's Sustainability Club is exactly what its name suggests. It's self sufficient after just three years of being in existence, not relying on the Huntington Beach Union High School District for any funding.

"The Sustainability program is definitely sustainable, it doesn't cost taxpayers or the district a dollar," said Greg Goran, Huntington Beach High Sustainability Club director and teacher of social studies and an Environmental Awareness and Responsibility class. "We actually generate money for the district."

Goran hopes the club can increase what it raises for the district. It currently generates about $500 a month through its recycling program and organic garden, the produce from which is sold to SlapFish — a sustainable seafood restaurant in Huntington Beach.

About three weeks ago, Goran had the about 35 students in his Environmental Awareness and Responsibility class, which is part of the club, begin an energy audit at Huntington Beach High.

Groups of four or five students were given designated areas of campus to make note of every device that consumes water, electricity or gas. An outside energy-auditing company will handle some of the devices the students can't reach or see.

It will create a baseline of what utilities the school uses in a month and Goran's class will come back to the district to make recommendations on how the school can lower its monthly bill.

"I think it will be shocking to the public when we show how much can be saved with our program," said Goran, who declined not to estimate how much money that could be.

Those savings can come pretty easily, Goran said, by unplugging unused computers and turning off gym lights that are currently kept on all day and monitoring the school's use of the air conditioner.

He said it's hard to make those suggestions without evidence or signs of what the school and district can save on its utility bills.

"[The district] needs to see that proof first," said Goran, who estimated the audit would be finished in about two months. "You've got to give them the numbers and the dollars… you don't even mention resources or the environment. You almost have to turn it around and say you can save money and the environmental stuff is the tail end."

Goran said students can take the knowledge they gain from the school's audit and apply it to their homes. The Sustainability Club is also in the planning stages of selling do-it-yourself home utility audit software and utility conservation kits in part with Newport Beach-based Zero Carbon Alliance.

Goran launched the audit after he was given the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce's Educational Partnership Award the first year for this category at the chamber's annual Business and Leadership Awards Luncheon on Dec. 6.

"He introduced sustainability to the high school," Chamber Marketing and Communications Director Marilee Movius said of why Goran was chosen, citing the energy audits and organic garden he started at Huntington Beach High. "They're progressive programs and creating role models for other schools to follow."

The audits are part of a career and internship program Goran added to the Sustainability Club this year. The goal is to introduce students to environmental jobs that may spark a passion and lead to a future career.

The audit was funded by a grant from Village Green Global and the Chamber of Commerce's Business and Entrepreneurship Center.

While the final result of the audit could be exciting, the early stages aren't exactly that. On Dec. 19, groups of students in Goran's class counted every device that consumes water, electricity or gas.

Huntington Beach High senior Christine Lint, 18, didn't mind. The best part of the class, which she says is very popular and her second favorite this year, is how they're always doing something different — something they'd never do in other classes.

"I really like this class, we learn a lot," Lint said. "[Goran] makes us want to learn about what's going on. He's a good teacher."

Josh Miraglia, another 18-year-old senior in Goran's class, said he enjoys the class because he feels what they're doing has an impact and creates a sense of pride on campus.

"You get to improve the school that you go to," Miraglia said. "Some of the people in the class are seniors and us seniors walk around, see how much trash is on the ground and it's motivating for us to show freshmen and sophomores to keep the campus clean."

That's precisely what Goran wants his students to do. He said the club has come a long way in three years after starting as a discussion group and recycling club.

"It takes like three or four years to change the culture of a school because they have to be exposed to it," Goran said. "We are seeing the tail end of it. The older [students] are going to educate the younger ones and it should be self sufficient after a while."

Twitter: @TCNShortall

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