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This year, Bellevue School District is partnering with the city of Bellevue to raise awareness about the importance of energy efficiency in homes and classrooms.  The city was selected to compete in the Georgetown University Energy Prize (GUEP) – a $5 million prize to the small or mid-sized U.S. city that can reduce the most energy in two years.  Bellevue is one of 50 cities selected to compete.

“Bellevue is pursuing this prize because our residents want to save money and help the environment – to be forward thinking,” said Mayor Claudia Balducci.

As part of the competition, the city is including the district’s energy usage numbers in quarterly reports to GUEP officials.  Energy efficiency has been at the forefront for the district for more than a decade.  With construction of new facilities, the district’s goal is to meet and exceed, to the extent possible, energy code requirements.  New schools that have been built since 2001 use 20 percent less energy per square foot, compared to their preconstruction facilities.  This year, the district completed a new bus maintenance facility with one of the largest solar installations on the Eastside (100 kW), among other green building attributes like geothermal heating.

The city is building on existing BSD efforts by driving student involvement in energy efficiency through a new program called the Eastside Energy Corps (EEC).  Eastside Energy Corps members learn career skills in energy management, marketing, communications, and public speaking – the community is their curriculum.  They are meeting regularly to develop and implement the overall campaign for winning the GUEP.

The EEC idea came to fruition through a steering committee focused on a community energy efficiency plan.  Interlake AP/IB Environmental Science teacher Steve Miguelez was a member of that steering committee and said, “It’s not easy to get individual people involved in something that’s a municipal project.  The best conduit that we thought of was we have lots of children and those students all go home.  If they can take that message home, and be that advocate in the house, we thought that would be a great idea.”  The EEC now consists of more than 100 students.

Miguelez says he encourages his students to participate in EEC by appealing to their humanity.  He tells his students, “I hope through the curriculum that you’re learning you see the importance of what you’re learning about.  It’s an opportunity to become involved at a level you can really see make an impact.”

EEC students are engaged and excited about the opportunity to contribute to the city’s efforts towards the GUEP.  Interlake junior Emily Deardorff is a member of the EEC and likes the call to action that the city and GUEP inspire.  “It kind of forces everyone to get into action and create these habits, create the infrastructure for more long term change,” she said.

Classmate Aurora Bays-Muchmore agrees with Deardorff and the goal of EEC.  Both students are officers on Interlake’s green team and see the value of having another avenue to voice the need of energy reduction.  “It’s really hard for youth to get involved in sustainability and conservation without a program, or advisor,” said Bays-Muchmore.  The ECC is “providing a voice for the teens who actually care about the environment and sustainability.”

EEC is working on increasing the uptake of high-value utility programs, as well as innovative initiatives to reduce residential energy consumption.  Currently the group is planning a photo competition using the hashtag #bellevuecleanenergy and a YouTube video challenge reminiscent of the ice bucket challenge.

“It’s really exciting to have this leadership opportunity to learn by doing and learn by teaching others,” said Deardorff.  “I think EEC is kind of providing us that rare opportunity to be the center of it.

Learn more about GUEP and how you can get involved with EEC by visiting greenwa.org.

The Bellevue School District acknowledges that we learn, work, live and gather on the Indigenous Land of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the Duwamish and Snoqualmie Tribes. We thank these caretakers of this land, who have lived and continue to live here, since time immemorial.