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Durango School District 9-R flips the switch for Earth week

Classes turn off lights for 15 minutes to demonstrate how much electricity can be saved
A Florida Mesa Elementary School teacher with students during a 15-minute period in which Durango School District 9-R “unplugged” to raise awareness about environmental sustainability. (Courtesy of Durango School District 9-R)

In celebration of Earth Day, Durango School District 9-R schools went dark for fifteen minutes last week.

In collaboration with La Plata Electric Association, 9-R schools made a commitment to unplug electronic devices and turn off the lights to show students how making small changes can have a large impact on the environment.

“It’s easy to forget to unplug a laptop or turn off a lamp; but if everyone across all our schools forgets, that could add up to a big drain on our resources,” said Ron Reed, the district’s manager of custodial services, in a news release.

La Plata Electric Association monitored the event and measured the energy savings. LPEA collects energy data in 15 minute intervals which is why the school district powered down for 15 minutes.

During that time, the district saved 44.08 kilowatt-hours. By comparison, the average Durango home uses 28 kWh per day.

In an hourlong period, the district would have saved 176 kWh of power.

The U.S. Department of Energy reported in 2022 that schools annually spend $8 billion on energy, and emit an estimated 72 million metric tons of carbon dioxide – equivalent to the output of 18 coal-fired power plants, or more than 8 million homes.

LPEA Energy Management Key Account Specialist Emily Missildine said the purpose of the event was to show students what they can accomplish if they chose to turn off a light switch or unplug a computer before going to recess.

“The cool thing about some of these results is that this is really showing kind of behavioral changes they can make just by turning things off,” Missildine said.

“Saving the planet sounds great, but how do you do it?” said 9-R spokeswoman Karla Sluis. “Sometimes it’s hard for kids to see how they can make a difference. This event is a perfect teachable moment about how to make a small, measurable change – with just a simple flip of a switch.”

Despite being without power, classes were still attended by students, who continued to learn without using electricity.

The event fell under the district’s 2023-25 Strategic Plan goals to provide sustainability education and earn a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon designation, according to a news release.

The award recognizes districts across the country that have demonstrated a commitment to environmental sustainability. The district’s 2023-25 strategic plan includes creating a “Green Team” at every school to educate students about environmental impacts.

Durango High School’s Green Team has been involved in many trash pickup events around the city including its “Zero Waste Week” in November.

Other strategies that are part of 9-R’s sustainability education plan include: construction of the Seeds of Inspiration Learning lab at Riverview Elementary School, expand school gardens, embed sustainability education into district curriculum and expand farm to school programming.


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