Combating Climate Change in Montgomery County Public Schools
Over the past decade, the impact of climate change has been visible to the entire world: Africa faces unprecedented droughts, wildfires take over parts of Australia, North America, and South America, and southern Asia experiences never-before-seen flooding, all while the world continues heating up. This is not a problem – it is a crisis. Climate change is ranked among the most pressing global issues, yet it is not being treated with the necessary level of urgency and importance. While there is a lot the world can do, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has the opportunity to take action and ensure that sustainability has a place in the school system.
Currently, MCPS is taking insufficient action to combat climate change. While MCPS has developed a plan for a fully-electric bus fleet, implemented reusable water bottle filling stations at schools, and more, those are only a few pieces of the puzzle. Very few schools in Montgomery County are using some source of reusable energy. According to the MCPS Division of Sustainability and Compliance, 17 out of MCPS’ 210 schools have solar panels – that is only 8% of schools. In addition, only 38% of electricity is purchased from reusable energy sources, meaning the majority of electricity is derived from the burning of fossil fuels. Also, there has never been an MCPS sustainability workgroup or commission in place that gathers input from students on building a more sustainable school system. The Board of Education needs to be committed to fighting climate change and enacting tangible solutions or else the county and schools will only make the climate crisis worse.
MCPS must take sweeping action immediately, first by creating a Student Sustainability Commission. This commission will be a group of passionate student advocates from all parts of the county that will look into MCPS’ sustainability efforts and determine what steps MCPS should take to reach their goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 100% by 2035 (which is outlined in Policy ECA, Sustainability). In addition, MCPS must purchase 100% of electricity from renewable energy sources and install solar panels at every school, whether on roofs or other flat surfaces, such as solar parking canopies. Furthermore, light-emitting diodes, also known as LEDs, burn 25 times longer than incandescent light bulbs and use up to 80% less electricity. If MCPS can invest in LEDs for all school buildings, especially when a new building is in the process of construction or renovation, the county would be on track to cut its energy consumption by more than three-fourths. The Board of Education must also replace current air conditioners in school buildings with heat pump systems. Air conditioners are known to use a large amount of energy, emitting harmful greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. By replacing air conditioners with heat pump systems, which is a more environmentally-friendly alternative to air conditioners, MCPS can reduce their energy consumption and provide comfortable classroom conditions. Finally, the climate crisis is an issue that will impact everyone, especially youth all across the world. Therefore, schools need to equip students with the proper knowledge of climate change by implementing environmental literacy in the curricula, beginning with elementary school.
It is time MCPS contributes more effectively towards combating the climate crisis, especially since MCPS falls among the top 20 largest school systems in the nation. It is important to note that climate change affects everyone, predominantly marginalized and low-income communities that are at the forefront of the climate crisis. MCPS must do their part to lower its carbon footprint and take bold steps forward towards building a cleaner, more sustainable future.
Garfinkel, Noah. “EPA: Climate Change Disproportionately Affects Marginalized Communities.” Axios, 2 Sept. 2021, https://www.axios.com/2021/09/02/epa-report-climate-change-marginalized-communities.
Montgomery County GND Internships. “MCPS: Get Serious about Climate Change.” The Action Network, https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/mcps-get-serious-about-climate-change?source=direct_link&.
Montgomery County Public Schools, Division of Sustainability and Compliance. “Renewable Energy.” Montgomery County Public Schools, https://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/departments/facilities/sustainability/renewable-energy.aspx.
Montgomery County Public Schools. “Draft Changes to MCPS Policy ECA—Energy Conservation.” Montgomery County Public Schools, https://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/uploadedFiles/departments/facilities/sustainability/Policy%20ECA_FAQ.pdf.
Sweet, Kirsten. “44 Ways To Make Your School and Classroom More Green.” We Are Teachers, 1 Apr. 2022, https://www.weareteachers.com/green-school-tips/.
“Heat Pump Systems.” Energy.gov,https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/heat-pump-systems
Written by Educational Policy Department
Published by PR Department