Over the years, Bethel has earned a reputation for being one of the most energy efficient districts in the state. Every Bethel school has been certified as an Energy Star building, and our Energy Conservation program has won numerous awards since it was created in 2005.
Michael Rushton, the district’s Energy Manager, didn’t start the program, but feels a responsibility to continue building upon the work of his predecessor.
“Bethel has always been an energy leader. We’ve always been a green district, from the onset of this program over 10 years ago,” Rushton said. “Continuing that only adds to the legacy we’ve already created for the district.”
What that means is that everyone, from the Superintendent on down, is playing a role in keeping energy usage — and energy costs — down. It’s often as simple as teachers monitoring classroom temperatures or staff making sure to turn off lights on the way out of a room.
The district is now in the process of removing inefficient lights from all Bethel buildings and replacing them with long-lasting LED lights. The new lights will save taxpayers roughly $38,000 per year in energy costs, but they’ll also benefit the district in a number of other ways.
Because the LED lights have a longer service life, the district saves money by sending fewer technicians to buildings. Fewer visits from technicians means less wear and tear on vehicles, less gasoline used, and more time for maintenance crews to do other work.
Part of that other work is educating staff members about reducing their energy footprint. Whether that’s through using natural light when available or wearing layers instead of using a space heater in the winter, Rushton wants people to be cognizant of their energy use.
“What we have to realize when we’re in these buildings is that we’re using tax dollars to pay for our energy use. Because of that, we have a need to act more accountably,” Rushton said.
Another project on Rushton’s list is the replacement of two old, inefficient boilers from Cougar Mountain Middle School and North Star Elementary. Cougar Mountain’s boiler was replaced early this school year, and North Star’s is scheduled to be replaced in October.
“It was really affecting the quality of life in the school,” Rushton said of the old equipment. “Trouble with the boiler means trouble with heating. When you can’t heat the school properly, pretty soon comfort becomes and issue. We want comfort to be something that people have to pay no attention to.”