NEW YORK, NY -- Students from 116 schools in 22 states collectively prevented 1,567,562 pounds of global warming carbon dioxide (CO2) from being released into the atmosphere in just four weeks, during the 2012 national Green Cup Challenge® (GCC), with the top schools reducing their energy use by over 30 percent.

Now in its fifth year, the GCC is an inter-school energy conservation challenge, for grades K-12, sponsored by the non-profit Green Schools Alliance. Scheduled during peak winter energy use, (Jan. 18-Feb. 15) the friendly competition empowers students and staff to conserve electricity, raise environmental awareness, and decrease their campus's carbon footprint. The Green Cup Video Challenge, designed to create excitement around the GCC, has helped student videos go viral on YouTube, including this year's winner.

Top reducing schools for this year's GCC included: St. Andrew's School, Florida (-32 percent), St. Stephen's and St Agnes School (-28 percent) and The Hill School (-23.4 percent) both in Virginia, The Canterbury School (-18 percent) and Cary Academy (-11.3 percent), both in North Carolina, Harvard-Westlake School (-22.1 percent) and The Turning Point School (-17.3 percent), both in California, Sophia Academy (-12.7 percent) and Westminster Schools (-12.4 percent), both in Georgia, The Pennington School, New Jersey (-10 percent), Mercersburg Academy, Pennsylvania (-9.1 percent), The White Mountain School, New Hampshire (-15.8 percent), The Belmont Hill School (-17.4 percent), The Stoneleigh-Burnham School, (-13.6 percent) and Phillips Academy (-10.9 percent), all in Massachusetts, The Evergreen School, Washington State (-12.5 percent), The Latin School of Chicago (-7.4 percent), The Buckley School (-8.7 percent) and The Lycée Français School (-8.4 percent) both in New York City, and the Nichols School in Buffalo, N.Y. (-4.9 percent).

"Together, we saved 1,031,148 kilowatt hours of electricity -- over one million for the fourth year in a row," says GCC's program director Katy Perry. "That's the equivalent of annual CO2 emissions from 139 passenger vehicles. If this level of savings were extended for a full academic year, it would translate to the prevented emissions of about 1,400 cars."

The current savings were based on actions taken during just four weeks. Those actions were often simple and included conducting energy audits with facilities managers to identify "low-hanging fruit," turning off lights in unoccupied spaces, using more natural light in classrooms, setting thermostats a few degrees lower or -- in the South -- air conditioners a few degrees higher (which was aided by warmer weather this winter), powering down computers and office machines overnight and on weekends, and replacing old equipment, including heating, cooling, and lighting units with energy efficient models. The Pennington School in New Jersey even held candlelight dinners in an effort to reduce its electricity use.

Taking first place for most popular GCC Video this year, based on an online voter poll, was the Marist School, a private school for grades 7-12 in Atlanta, Ga. The video, titled "So Fresh and So Green," is a tongue in cheek adaptation of the hip hop duo Outkast's single "So Fresh, So Clean." Featuring clever rhymes about energy conservation, composting and recycling set to an infectious hip hop rhythm, the video showcases Marist seniors "Butta Biscuit" (Branton Wandera), "Mikey-B" (Michael Bradley), "Confucius Rodge" (Will Rogers), "Clive Sensation" (Wes Brown), and Samuel McDaniel. Senior Eric Eichelberger, who directed the video said, "This video was a fun way to promote all the green initiatives at our school, and remind students to save as much energy and resources as possible. We tried to show how little things like turning lights off and recycling can help." Wandera adds, "We believe the most important message in the video is that, just like the process of making the video, efforts to save energy and preserve the environment must be a team effort. One person can only do so much; but when a group of people work towards the same goal, the results are much more beneficial to the community as a whole. We must all work together."

Given that there are 132,600 schools in the U.S. alone, the GCC demonstrates that the potential benefits of a national school-based resource conservation movement are enormous.

The New York City and Chicago Public School Green Cup Challenges launch on March 2. The Green Cup Recycle Challenge begins on April 2.


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