Organize to commit your school to spending one whole day with the lights off. Utilize this project as an event in a series of Earth Week actions or as one step in a longer campaign to get your school or district to make permanent energy reductions. Thanks to Mike Close from Shakopee High School for this action plan.

Hu2 Design

WHY LIGHTS?

On average, MN high schools spend 26% of its electricity bill on lights. So, turning off the lights for one day has many benefits.

  • Climate — Electricity in MN still comes mostly from coal. Turning on the lights emits CO2, the main greenhouse gas responsible for climate change.
  • Health justice — Coal energy contributes to health problems like asthma, heart failure, and developmental delay. Low-income families, people of color, and indigenous communities bear an unfair portion of this health burden.
  • Money — On average, MN high schools spend about $79 a day on lights and $95,300 on electricity each year. If you saved money on your school’s energy bill, how would you spend that money to make your school better?

PROJECT STEPS

  1. Do your homework: Research the impacts of electricity use on climate change and health. Check out the MN Energy Report Card for lots of information on climate change in MN. See if you can figure out how much energy your school uses and how much carbon that produces. This project could be your school’s baby step as part of a much bigger plan to achieve a carbon-negative Earth.
    • On average, MN high schools produce 532 tons of CO2 each year just by lighting their schools.Turning off the lights for one day could cut that footprint down by almost a half ton (996 lbs of CO2).
  2. Make a pitch: You need to convince enough people in the school to participate for this to work. Why is it important to turn off the lights? What concerns might people have?
    • Consider what to tell people if it’s a dark, cloudy day – what’s the back-up plan?
    • At Shakopee High School, some people were hesitant because earlier that year there was a power outage at school; things got chaotic and students were sent home early. The Shakopee Green Team had to explain how this day was different!
  3. Pick a date and make a timeline: Pick a day when you’ll turn the lights out. Make sure there aren’t any important events like ACT tests that day, and check the weather to aim for a sunny day. A possible timeline:
    • Two weeks before: Create educational materials and scripts to tell people about it. Be sure to plan a next step for people to get involved in your work after LIGHTS OUT DAY.
    • One week before: Go to every classroom to tell teachers and students about the day.
  4. Spread the word: Recruit a team who can go around and talk to every class and staff person in the building to tell them about your plan. Ask teachers directly: “Will you join us and turn your lights off for the whole day on [date]?”
    • Encourage people to wear all black to make it more fun. Pass around a sign-up sheet if people want to get involved in future actions with your team.
    • While you’re at it, get permission to make some all-school announcements on LIGHTS OUT DAY.
  5. LIGHTS OUT! On the day of, speak on the announcements and tell people why this matters. Get people excited that they are participating in a global movement to save people and our planet.
    • Invite them to take action with you in your next project (i.e. “Join us for a screening of the film This Changes Everything, and to get involved in our campaign to make our school carbon neutral by 2030. We’ll gather on Thursday at 3pm in Room 205.”).
  6. Follow up: Celebrate on the school announcements the next day “Thanks for supporting it! We had 100% of classrooms participate, and we saved ___ lbs of carbon.” Contact everyone who signed up during your classroom visits to invite them personally to your next action.
  7. Evaluate: Reflect with your team about what went well.
  8. Publicize: Contact yeamn@climategen.org to tell us how it went. We’d love to feature your story on our website. Share your action project story at a school board meeting to convince them to invest in energy efficiency…With every action, you are more powerful.

MORE RESOURCES

Alliance to Save Energy: Energy Saving Tips for Schools
EPA Guide to Energy Efficiency Projects in K-12 Schools

Footnotes

School energy facts.

  • On average, K-12 schools use 10 kWh of electricity per square-foot in their building (source: Touchstone Energy fact sheet). For a high school of 100,000 square feet, that means 1million kWh of electricity a year.
  • Energy in MN cost an average of $0.0953 / kWh in 2015 (source: EIA). Which means that imaginary high school spends $95,300 on electricity annually.
  • 26% of that electricity bill is spent on lights (source: Touchstone Energy fact sheet). This means about $24,778 a year on lights. Assuming the school lights are on 315 days a year, that’s $79 a day.
  • In MN, electricity produces 1.17 lbs of CO2 per kWh of electricity (source: EIA). So school lights account for 966 lbs of CO2 a day.