tungsten, compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs (Chones/Shutterstock.com)

4,000 down. 2,000 to go.

That’s the scorecard so far, as Evanston Township High School works to replace all of its old fluorescent, high pressure sodium and metal halide lighting with energy efficient light-emitting diode models, better known as LEDs.

John Crawford, the high school’s Director of Operations and Sustainability, told the board of education Monday night that 520 more LED lights will be installed this summer, making a signilficant dent in the number yet to be replaced.

Crawford also outlined a number of other energy-saving steps, and noted that energy saving can also mean cost saving, in many cases.

For example, Crawford said the reduction of electricity and natural gas usage, along with utility company incentives, saved District 202 more than $360,000 in 2021.

Natural gas consumption by the school is down 31% from 2018, and electricty usage is 20% lower, according to Crawford’s report.

Of course, sometimes going green means laying out more green.

Crawford noted that 100% of the electricity purchased at ETHS is guaranteed to be 100% from renewable energy, in this case, largely from a wind farm in Texas.

“That does cost the district additional money,” Crawford’s report said. “However,” it continued, “investing in renewable energy helps the energy companies further invest in renewable energy.”

While the idea of putting solar panels on top of ETHS has gained support, there’s not a lot of roof surface where this would work.

ETHS has 159 different roof elevations, the report stated, and only nine of those roofs “are currently acceptible for a solar array.” However, Crawford noted that even putting up a small number of solar panels could lead to a 7.5% to 11% energy cost reduction.

Other sustainability steps are taking place in the cafeteria, where those famous little milk boxes (which ultimately occupy landfill space) will be replaced in the fall by a self-service bulk milk dispenser.

According to the sustainability report, the dispenser means “lower cost and reduced waste,” because “students choose their own amount, rather than drinking half a container and discarding the rest.”

And speaking of discards, ETHS also plans to expand composting, from the current Main Kitchen and East Cafeteria to all four cafeterias and the employee dining room this fall.

Perhaps the biggest item, however, should come within the next week or so.

ETHS recently completed a Public School Carbon Free Assessment, and the results are expected soon.

Crawford’s report said, “This is a high level assessment … [which] will provide us a path to becoming carbon free.”

The assessment also makes it possible for ETHS to apply for construction grants from the state.

While solar panels, hundreds of LED lights, and a target of becoming carbon free are big items, there are also small ones on the path to sustainability, energy efficiency, and less waste.

ETHS now partners with a company called EcoShip, which, in the words of Crawford’s report, “collects gently used Amazon mailers, padded mailers, bubble wrap, … [and] packing paper to be redistributed and reused by local businesses.”

So don’t burst the bubbles from your bubble wrapped-gift, no matter how much fun it may be to hear the pop-pop-pop.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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  1. Unfortunately ETHS insists on starting school in the middle of the summer. This means that they have to spend way more money on air conditioning in order to start school on August 12 (almost the exact middle of the meteorological Summer). This is a HUGE waste of resources that also takes away precious summer time from kids in exchange for more weeks in the building. All of this is for the almighty test scores which they have prioritized over energy conservation and students well-being. Shame in you ETHS.

    1. I’m not sure it has anything to do with test scores. The original reason for doing this as I understand it was because it enabled them to finish the first semester before winter break, college style, so that students could take final exams before break, while the material was still fresh on their minds, and then be able to get away from schoolwork entirely for two weeks the way college kids do. Nice idea, but unfortunately the next year Covid hit, they canceled final exams and still haven’t reinstated them (the wisdom of which, regarding college-bound students who will eventually have to learn to study for them, is another subject for another post). So I’m not sure what the rationale is at this point What do you think it has to do with test scores?

    2. As a student at ETHS, I totally agree. We start school ridiculously early in the summer and don’t get to enjoy the weather that Evanston only gets to experience for a few months before going back to being ice cold and snowy again.

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