Assess School Lighting

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Did you know that buildings consume approximately 39 percent of the energy and 74 percent of the electricity produced annually in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy?

Schools spend about $8 billion a year on energy—more than on books and computers combined—but almost a third of that money is lost through wasted energy. Significant impact can be made in reducing the amount of energy used to light the school because a typical school spends a quarter of its electricity usage on lighting. Give your school a day-lit facelift. Conduct a lighting audit by identifying places in the school where more efficient lighting or natural daylight can be used in the room.

Measure your impact

Record the kWh saved this year or just on your day of action. Either work with your facilities staff to choose a baseline energy use and see how much lower you can go, or estimate your impact by adding up the amount that was likely saved through each of your actions. Track your school's energy usage throughout the school year using Arc, the online, building performance platform, to inform you of inefficiencies throughout the building.

Get started

  • Get an overview of how a school uses energy from the EPA, and make the case to a school administrator for how your lighting audit can help them reduce energy costs. 
  • Take simple steps to improve lighting levels in classrooms, like taking student artwork off the windows to hang it elsewhere or opening blinds to let sunshine in. 
  • Work with the school’s facilities team to swap out old light bulbs for more efficient ones.
  • Donate table lamps for desk lighting for teachers so that they can turn off the overhead lights when class is not in session (and leave a note to remind them to turn them off when they leave).
  • Ask school administration about policies for hosting classes in other areas of the school or outside. If there are hesitations or restrictions against this, make your case and get others to speak up about the benefits outdoor learning.
  • Connect student learning with sustainability action. Learning Lab offers high-quality classroom content — over 450 lessons — for teachers from kindergarten to high school. In the lesson "Investigating Lightbulbs," students conduct a scientific experiment to determine how much thermal energy various types of lightbulbs emit and consider the pros and cons of each light source. You can find more modules to educate students about lighting and energy use by searching Learning Lab's catalog by theme, primary subject, grade or keyword.
  • Educate school staff on what what supports or impedes healthy, resource-efficient and environmentally sustainable learning spaces. The Green Classroom Professional Course breaks down the different aspects of building sustainability, including indoor lighting and energy efficiency, and identifies the effects they have on school occupants and the environment.

Additional resources

Example projects

Materials for this project

If applying for a mini-grant through the site, these materials among others are included in the site's available vendors: