Schools can save $100,000 in annual operating costs by opting for more environmentally sound practices. For example, the use of solar panels cut down school electricity bills; recycling cuts down on waste.

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Did you know that schools can save $100,000 in annual operating costs? I found this interesting tidbit in a cheerful two-page spread about green schools in the latest issue of Handshake, IFC’s quarterly journal.

Green schools can save up to $100,000 in annual operating costs. This is enough to hire at least one new teacher, buy 200 new computers or purchase 5,000 textbooks.

The spread caught my eye at once. I had recently looked into an environmentally-friendly school in Bali, thinking my kids might benefit from looking after goats and growing rice. I had also just talked about green buildings with a colleague in Bangladesh during an interview.

“With the right design, you can develop energy and water-efficient buildings to be used for offices, hospitals and schools,” he said, “but without compromising comfort.”

His enthusiasm was infectious. But I didn’t realize that schools could also save a bundle of cash.

Image courtesy of the US Green Building Council

Image courtesy of the US Green Building Council

The school in Bali is made of bamboo and looks like something Tarzan would build for his own kids. But schools don’t have to be in the jungle to be environmentally friendly. A green school is designed to reduce waste and use renewable energy wherever possible. They use energy-efficient bulbs, use less water in toilets, and grow grass on the roof to keep buildings cool. Solar panels cut down school electricity bills; recycling cuts down on waste. In short, green schools can be built in cities too.

So how do green schools differ from any other kind of green building? They don’t, really. But if you like the idea of your kids spending school time in an environmentally-friendly environment, where information about climate change is taught, not suppressed, and where funds saved in operating costs can be directed towards learning, then it makes sense. The U.S. Green Building Council says that the $100,000 saved is “enough to hire at least one new teacher, buy 200 new computers, or purchase 5,000 textbooks.” Not bad, especially when we’re talking about taxpayer money.

With such big savings, why isn’t every new school going green? I’m sure most people love the idea of green schools and buildings, but it would be useful to see some hard numbers that show that the additional costs of designing, building and operating a green school – or any green building – makes economic sense.

Does it? Let me know what you think.

To learn more about PPPs and learning, read the latest issue of Handshake (Issue #8), or become a subscriber.