The Green Cup Challenge® (GCC), launched 2007, is an annual month long inter-school energy challenge that takes place each January/February to call attention to peak winter energy use. Originally designed to help schools measure and reduce electricity use and greenhouse gas emissions, GCC provides hands-on learning opportunities for students and school staff, including facilities managers, to work together to reduce their school’s carbon footprint. GCC integrates education and action, quantifies progress and aggregates success.
Some of the activities students and staff undertake during GCC include: making videos, reading electric meters, collecting and aggregating data using spreadsheets, calculating average energy use and learning to use the Energy Star Portfolio Manager to establish a building’s baseline energy consumption. Students can view their own school’s results week-to-week and compare them with other schools’ data. Participation in GCC can greatly enhance a school’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum. More importantly, GCC’s impact is real.
In the last five years, GCC participating schools have saved nearly six million kilowatt hours of electricity and prevented more than 3,500 metric tons (or 7.7 million pounds) of global warming carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere. During the 2012 GCC, some top performing schools managed to reduce energy use by more than 30 percent, thus showcasing the collective impact of hundreds of people performing simple actions like turning off lights in unoccupied spaces.
In April 2011, 20 participating GCC schools launched the first Green Cup “Recycle” Challenge to promote compliance with their recycling programs. The top three schools achieved recycling diversion rates of more than 80 percent. These program numbers demonstrate the enormous potential of a national school-based resource conservation movement. Lessons learned ripple outward from schools to families and workplace and endure long after GCCs are over.
Emily Alix Fano is a consultant with the Green Schools Alliance. She has a Master’s degree in Urban and Environmental Policy from Tufts University and writes on green schools, biotechnology and the environment for national and international forums. A passionate environmentalist devoted to the goal of zero-waste schools, Fano is an active member of the District 3 Green Schools Group – a coalition of parents creating model green programs in New York City public schools. She has been recognized as a Changemaker by Planet Green. E: firstname.lastname@example.org