Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)

Analyze Your School’s Energy Consumption

A lesson plan for developing student awareness of their campus’s degree of “greenliness.”

October 11, 2007

Subject(s): Environmental science, biology, general science

Estimated time: One ninety-minute period (or two forty-five-minute periods), with options to extend

Grade level: 9–12 (can be modified for lower grade levels)

Overview: Students will

  • define attributes of an energy-efficient green school.
  • identify areas of energy waste in their school by
    • comparing their school to a LEED-certified school.
    • identifying areas within the school’s capacity to change.
    • auditing the school’s recycling program.

Analyzing Your School's Energy Consumption Activity Instruction Sheet
What Shade of Green Is Your School? Energy-Efficiency Worksheet
Trash Can and Recycling Bin Audit Sheet
Rubber dishwashing gloves

Analyzing Your School's Energy Consumption Activity Instruction Sheet


Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the U.S. Green Building Council’s nationally accepted benchmark for design, performance, and operation of green buildings. Though not many of the schools in the United States are considered green buildings, we can do many things to make our schools more environmentally friendly.

The LEED Rating System for Existing Buildings addresses

  • whole-building cleaning and maintenance issues including chemical use.
  • ongoing indoor air quality and energy efficiency.
  • water efficiency.
  • recycling programs and facilities.
  • exterior maintenance programs.
  • systems upgrades to meet green-building energy, water, indoor-air-quality, and lighting performance standards.

From this rating system, we can derive fundamental questions students can ask, and then, based on the answers that pertain to their school building, the students can be part of a process that effects change toward more environmentally friendly building management.


1. Elicit from students the definition of what it means to be green. (Use any pedagogical method for brainstorming ideas that you prefer.)
2. Follow this question with queries about how green students think they are, and how green they think the school is. Once they have posted their responses, ask them what specific criteria they used to classify both themselves and their school building.
3. Discuss with them how their ideas are similar to nationally recognized benchmarks for green buildings.
4. Discuss how actions should be based on information and, in this case, easily collectible data. Hand out the “What Shade of Green is Your School?” worksheet.
5. Assign or have students volunteer for one of the six sections on the worksheet, except for section three.

What Shade of Green Is Your School? Energy-Efficiency Worksheet

Section 1: Can You See the Light?

_____ Percentage of fluorescent or compact-fluorescent lighting
_____ Percentage of nonfluorescent lighting
_____ Percentage of computers shut off at night
_____ Percentage of computers that remain on all of the time

Section 2: Just Can It!

_____ Percentage of trash cans paired with can/bottle recycling cans
_____ Percentage of trash cans not paired with recycling cans

Section 3: We Audit Do It!

_____ Percentage of recyclable cans and bottles thrown away today
_____ Percentage of recyclable cans and bottles properly recycled today

Section 4: Copy Cats!

_____ Percentage of postconsumer recycled copy paper
_____ Average number of copies made per month by each teacher

Section 5: Cleanliness Is Next to Greenliness—and Greenliness Means Better Health

_____ Do your school's custodians use nontoxic cleaners?
_____ Are pesticides used inside the school building?

Section 6: Grounded in Green: A Look at the School Grounds

_____ Do your school's groundskeepers incorporate native vegetation into the landscape?
_____ Do your school's groundskeepers employ a strictly chemical approach to pest management or an integrated approach to keeping organisms deemed pests (whether plants or animals) in check?

Trash Can and Recycling Bin Audit Sheet

Using rubber dishwashing gloves for sanitary purposes, record the number of recyclable food containers and other items in each of ten trash cans and ten recycling cans and add the totals together, then calculate the number of recyclable items found in each category.

Number of Recyclables
Trash 1 ______
Trash 2 ______
Trash 3 ______
Trash 4 ______
Trash 5 ______
Trash 6 ______
Trash 7 ______
Trash 8 ______
Trash 9 ______
Trash 10 ______
Total ______

Number of Recyclables
Recycle 1 ______
Recycle 2 ______
Recycle 3 ______
Recycle 4 ______
Recycle 5 ______
Recycle 6 ______
Recycle 7 ______
Recycle 8 ______
Recycle 9 ______
Recycle 10 ______
Total ______

Percentage of recyclables in trash ______
Percentage of recyclables in recycle bin ______

Rod Shroufe is an environmental science and biology teacher at Clackamas High School, in Clackamas, Oregon.

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  • 9-12 High School

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