Heidi Burkart, operations coordinator and energy manager for Camas School District in Washington state and K-12 goal achiever answered our 5 questions; here are her answers:
What's one piece of advice you’d like to give to a new partner?
Set high goals and expectations for your staff and your green team. Sometimes the project list in front of you can seem overwhelming, but pick three focus projects and work toward your goals. And remember to celebrate your successes in a big way.
What surprised you most in your work?
A lot of people that I work with, students, teachers, support staff, really care about the environment and conserving energy.
If you could invent one energy saving solution, what would it be?
Buildings that run on a scheduled program are more efficient than buildings that run 24/7. But if those buildings were only running when they were occupied and they were equipped with sensors in every part of the building to turn off lights and HVAC, a lot of energy would be saved.
What’s the most interesting project you’ve heard about at the conference?
Clean Energy Collective is a solar partner that works with states and local utilities on solar gardens. They put up the initial investment for the utility, and they‘re going to be starting out in Spokane, Wash. where local residents can buy into the solar garden at a cost of $1,400 or so, up to two panels. And the payback is two years. The Spokane project was just announced in May.
What’s been the biggest challenge in your work?
Finding new ways to engage students and staff. This last year my goal was to have every school in Camas to be Washington Green Schools certified. With the Washington Green Schools program, it ties in with our resource conservation policy really well. In regard to Washington Green Schools, it’s always ideal to have two energy champions at each school to keep the program sustainable—those energy champions could be custodians, students, teachers, principals, and PTA parent volunteers. Meeting with the schools’ green team has been a great opportunity to learn from the students on how best to engage the school. Some of the best ideas that have been implemented on student engagement have come from green teams members at the schools.