The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


Increasing Energy Use and Stagnant Recycling


Where ACPS’ Sustainability Has Fallen Short

Bridgette Adu-Wadier and Lauren Larsen

According to the ACPS Scorecard, in 2010, ACPS consumed 61,717 kBtu (British thermal unit) of energy. However, this figure dropped to 47,767 kBtu the following year, but saw an increase by 1,584 kBtu in 2012.
From that point on, energy use increased every year — and the margin widened with it. In 2013, the school used 51,207 kBtu; consumption rose by 23,658 kBtu in 2014. In 2015, energy use significantly increased to 97,014 kBtu.

The school district’s overall energy consumption has increased since 2013 and recycling remains stagnant, prompting a larger conversation on sustainability. 

In 2007, when the new T.C. Williams building was finished, Alexandria City Public Schools made a commitment to sustainability. They earned the designation of a Gold LEED certificate in 2009 for its environmental design features. Gold LEED is a green building certification system that provides third-party verification for the implementation of strategies aimed at improving sustainable practice.

Despite this, energy consumption has risen. “The school should go through a thorough energy audit to identify where the extra energy is being used,” said Patrick Earle who teaches AP Environmental Science and Sustainability & Renewable Technologies.

“The increasing student body is certainly a factor in the increasing energy usage in ACPS,” said Senior Camila Cohen-Suarez, who takes Earle’s Sustainability class.

In terms of recycling, Earle believes that T.C. has the capacity to do it. 

“Too many people… contaminate the recycling bins with food and other non-recyclable materials,” he said. “The custodians have to throw out all of the recycling if it is contaminated.”

Earle also urged that there needs to be leadership in regard to increasing sustainable practices. 

“This is everyone’s responsibility,” Earle said.  “I hope that students are inspired by young activists like Greta Thunberg to get involved with pushing for solutions to climate change.  These solutions have to begin with a careful look at how each of us is contributing to the problem.”

Ami Falk, who also takes Earle’s Sustainability course, said that reusing supplies and taking the bus to school instead of a car are two simple ways of acting more sustainably in school.

Outside of school, Cohen-Suarez suggested many different ways in which students can grow in awareness of the climate crisis: enter in environmental organizations, watch the news and follow climate crisis-centered social media accounts.

“In my opinion, the best way for a person to expand their awareness is through simply searching up the subject, reading a variety of articles/watching videos, and having productive discussions with their friends and/or family,” said Cohen-Suarez. 

Despite the increase in consumption and decrease in recycling, the school division has taken steps towards sustainable practices. 

Two years ago, DASH, the city’s public transportation system, partnered with ACPS to provide free rides to all T.C. students with their ID. T.C. students rode the DASH bus over 200,000 times last school year, a better alternative to driving. 

In June 2019 the School Board approved walk zone improvements for high school students, encouraging them to walk to school instead of using the school bus if they live within 1.5 miles of the King Street Campus or Minnie Howard.

Additionally, the school district was recently awarded a grant to purchase five electric school buses next school year for the price of five regular school buses, reducing maintenance costs by 60 percent.

Despite the trend of growing energy consumption and lack of consistent recycling, ACPS has recently implemented measures to better their sustainability practices, working towards the environmentally friendly school it has had the potential of being since 2007.

Not only does ACPS want to reduce energy consumption, they also want a greater percentage of waste to be recycled. For T.C. alone, there is no evident data about recycling between the fall of 2012 and the spring of 2015.
For the 2015-2016 school year, ACPS recycled 21% of waste at the King Street and Minnie Howard campuses, but this figure decreased to 11% the next school year.
However, the 2017-2018 school year saw recycling increase by 19% from the previous year. Although, it dropped to 25% last year. Their target for 2020 is to have 26% of all waste be recycled.
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Increasing Energy Use and Stagnant Recycling