School Reduces Energy Use: Saves $1894 in 5 Weeks

Sustainable Belmont shares a green triumph we can all celebrate.


One school in Massachusetts reduced its energy consumption by 13.6% and placed 2nd in a national energy competition – that school is Belmont’s Roger Wellington Elementary School. With businesses working to implement renewable energy to power their facilities, towns in Massachusetts applying to become “Green Communities,” and the Obama Administration introducing fuel-efficiency standards, the members of the Wellington School community demonstrate the power of behavioral change.

The school participated for the first time this year in the Green Cup Energy Challenge. By achieving close to 15% reduction in energy consumption (compared to the same period last year), the school:

  • conserved 13,280 kilowatt-hours of electricity,
  • reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 14,717 pounds, and
  • saved $1,894 on its energy bill.

How was this possible and can other schools learn from it?

The Green Cup Challenge is a month-long, inter-school competition that empowers students, teachers, and administrators, and builds community, while raising awareness about climate change and the importance of resource conservation. Students have the ability to see the results of their own conservation efforts by reading the school’s electric meter every week for 5 weeks in January and February and figuring out if the school’s electricity consumption is increasing or decreasing for that week. Although every school is a winner when they work together to decrease CO2 emissions, an almost 15% reduction is an outstanding achievement!

The Green Cup Challenge began in 2003 in one school, expanded to an interschool competition the following year, grew to 40 schools by 2007, and to 187 schools this year. Initially, participating schools were all clustered geographically; in 2014 they were organized into nine regional groups that cover the United States and other countries. Because of the unusually harsh winter, the organizers of the Challenge thought at the beginning that a 5% reduction in energy consumption would be commendable, yet 13.6% is outstanding! The Wellington School, its Green Team comprised of dedicated parent volunteers, the Parent Teacher Organization, and the school administration are all doing a great job of finding venues for decreasing consumption, increasing recycling, and teaching the children to live sustainably. We can all learn from them!

A day before the Challenge started in the middle of January, fourth grade students visited each classroom in the school as ambassadors to inform their fellow classmates about the Challenge, the actions they could undertake to conserve energy, and the importance of saving energy in the long run. They also learned how to read the electric meter and record the numbers indicating energy use in kilowatt-hours. Every day of the Challenge, students from the ages of six to ten enthusiastically reminded teachers to switch off smart boards when not in use, turn off computers and unplug all electronics at the end of the day, and power off all lights whenever it made sense—for example, when no one was in the room or the sunlight was just right. Many students enjoyed working in the natural light from the windows. It should be mentioned that Wellington students have the privilege to study in the “single most beautiful building” built in the metropolitan Boston area in the past 10 years, according to the Boston Society of Architects.

Winning a challenge, especially an energy conservation challenge, takes team effort, dedication, and enthusiasm. Wellington proved to have all three! The most important component was the enthusiasm and dedication of the students, teachers, staff, and administration, as well as the ability of the Wellington Green Team to lead the endeavor. The PTO also helped by sponsoring the participation fee. May the conservation behaviors continue and energy consumption diminish!

By Maria Petrova, PhD, Belmont resident and Wellington parent
Note: Some editing has been made from the original for this publication site.