Green Cup Challenge invites schools to save energy, money, and maybe the planet

Can schoolkids do what world leaders in Copenhagen failed to do last month: lower greenhouse gas emissions in the face of climate change? You may have already seen how some students challenged leaders in Denmark with patches from the climate quilt; now, the Green Schools Alliance (a sponsor of the quilt) has persuaded 128 schools in 22 states to take direct action against global warming by participating in the Green Cup Challenge.

The GSA describes the challenge as “the first and only student-driven interschool energy challenge” which “invites all schools to measure and reduce electricity use and greenhouse gas emissions, and supports greening efforts including recycling and water conservation.” Now in its fourth year, the Challenge can brag of creating measurable results: last year’s participating schools “reduced their aggregate carbon emissions by 2.5 million pounds: the equivalent of taking 220 cars off the road for one year.” While that won’t reverse global warming on its own, it also gave kids at 120 schools multiple lessons about the actions all of us can take to reduce carbon emissions.

The Challenge itself measures data provided by schools; the means by which students reduce energy use is up to them. For New York’s PS 166/The Richard Rodgers School of Arts and Technology (one of four schools in the NYC area participating), plans include having students make signs to remind everyone on campus to turn off lights and power down computers. Two “climate captains” in each class will make sure these things happen. And a “green team” of fifth graders will do weekly school-wide evaluations.

PS 166 is shooting for a 10% energy reduction during the competition period of January 15 – February 12. If successful, they will not only reduce the school’s climate impact, but also lower its power bill (which can run as high as $26,000/month).

Kids learn best by doing, and the hands-on approach of the Green Cup Challenge should be a great way to get students of all ages thinking about energy conservation. Know of a school in your area that’s participating (or has participated)? Tell us about them, and their plans for the Challenge.