01/28/2012 05:47 pm ET Updated Mar 29, 2012

U.S. Schools Compete to Slash Energy Use in 2012

Students in more than 116 schools across the U.S. are competing to reduce their electricity consumption by participating in the 2012 national Green Cup Challenge® (GCC) during peak winter energy usage, Jan. 18 to Feb. 15. (New York City and Chicago will launch separate Challenges on March 2). The national Challenge, now in its fifth year, is a project of the non-profit Green Schools Alliance (GSA), and is designed to raise awareness about energy conservation and provide concrete action towards reduction.

"Experts agree that the best way to save energy is to use less," says Peg Watson, GSA's founder and president. "You can't manage what you don't measure. The GCC teaches students that they have the power to save energy in their schools and homes, and that their actions can translate into positive change in the world," she says.

According to, America's K-12 schools spend more than $7.5 billion annually on energy, but as much as 30 percent of that energy ($2.25 billion) is used inefficiently or unnecessarily. The GCC has shown that, through awareness and small behavior changes, those wasteful patterns can be reversed.

During the Challenge, students and school staff work together to implement energy-saving strategies; they take weekly readings of school electric meters, and compare the usage to a baseline from previous years' consumption. Data are entered weekly into spreadsheets on the GCC website, providing students with hands-on learning opportunities. The annual GCC video contest has also become a popular showcase for students' talent and environmental passions.

"By participating in the Challenge," says Katy Perry, GCC program director. "Students and staff learn that simple things like turning off lights, powering down computers, unplugging electronic gadgets and machines when not in use, and setting thermostats to 68 degrees Fahrenheit add up to huge energy and cost-savings for schools."

In 2011, such simple actions allowed 121 GCC participating schools to reduce their electricity consumption by an average of 4.5 percent from the baseline. Collectively that was a total reduction of 1,036,816 kilowatt hours and $124,418 saved from their electric bills; and because behavioral changes typically endure, the actual savings continue into the future, long after the GCC is over.

The schools also collectively prevented 1,576,178 pounds of climate warming carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere by power plants. That's the equivalent of taking 140 passenger vehicles off the road for one year, or the amount of carbon that would be sequestered annually by 152 acres of pine forest.

Multiply all this by 139,207 schools in the U.S. alone, and one can quickly start to see the positive impact schools could have together.

Perry hopes that the knowledge students gain about energy conservation during the GCC will ripple outwards from schools, to households and beyond.

"A majority of Americans now believe that man-made climate change is real. The scientific consensus is undeniable; but some still continue to gamble with our children's future," says Watson. "Students must be given the tools today to become tomorrow's leaders and problem-solvers, in order to protect our shared future. The GCC gives them the opportunity to start making a difference."

About the Green Schools Alliance
The Green Schools Alliance (GSA), launched in late 2007, is a national non-profit organization uniting schools around the world to address 21st century environmental and climate challenges. Through its nearly 3,000 public, private and independent K-12 school members and chapters, GSA is reaching more than 2 million students in 40 U.S. states and 11 countries. Driven by the concept that schools can change the world, GSA members and chapters work together to set and meet their environmental goals through education, leadership and the exchange of best practices. Uniquely created by schools and for schools, the GSA is working on the local, state, and national levels to raise environmental awareness and empower students, faculty and staff to take concrete action and make sustainable choices that can have a global impact.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Katy Perry, 860-578-0174, Emily Fano, 917-301-8830