May 03 2024

3 Actions Your School Can Take to Support Sustainability

In the face of environmental stressors, K–12 organizations should opt for sustainable IT asset management and disposition services.

Sustainability is now imperative, with students and consumers increasingly demanding it. High schooler Reema Patadia said she and other young people “crave a deeper understanding of sustainability, how their future careers and lives will connect to it, and what they can do about it,” according to a Colorado Public Radio news article.

Students want to learn about sustainability, and they’re prioritizing colleges and businesses that demonstrate sustainable initiatives. Research shows that sustainability is the top factor in selecting a college for 10 percent of students, and that Gen Z and millennial consumers are 27 percent more likely than older generations to purchase from a brand that cares about its impact on people and the planet.

The federal government is also promoting sustainability in the nation’s K–12 schools. The Biden administration hosted the first White House Summit for Sustainable and Healthy K–12 School Buildings and Grounds in April. The Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, meanwhile, both offer multimillion-dollar programs in support of more sustainable schools.

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In response, K–12 organizations must continue to enact and prioritize sustainability initiatives. This starts with reducing paper and plastic use in favor of digital-forward options. But it also extends to electronic waste and other tech-related environmental stressors. Here are three immediate steps that IT leaders can take to achieve their sustainability goals.

1. Monitor Energy Use and Reduce Waste

Every organization, including educational institutions, should monitor and measure their energy use routinely. In K–12 schools, energy costs are the largest expense after teacher salaries.

According to the Department of Energy, school districts spend nearly $8 billion on energy every year. Yet, thanks to inefficiencies and aging infrastructure, up to 25 percent of schools’ energy is lost as a result of drafty windows, weak insulation and poorly managed HVAC systems. Wasted energy use contributes to increased emissions of certain air pollutants and greenhouse gases, which are key factors in climate change.

While upgrading to greener buildings is a great long-term solution, this problem can be mitigated more immediately by choosing smart connectivity options that increase energy efficiency and reduce a K–12 organization’s carbon footprint. IT leaders can work with tech partners such as CDW to get a full view of their organization’s energy use and environmental impact. From there, they can select products, solutions and services that keep energy costs low.

2. Dispose of Tech More Responsibly

Device recycling and e-waste management is another area where K–12 IT leaders can drive change. The World Health Organization reports that the creation of e-waste is escalating three times faster than the global population, making it the fastest-growing solid-waste stream in the world. Without proper treatment and disposal, e-waste can release toxic compounds into the air and groundwater.

By implementing IT asset disposition, schools can responsibly dispose of outdated tech equipment so parts can be reused, recycled or resold, perhaps in partnership with a nonprofit, such as Computers 4 People or Human-I-T. These organizations repurpose discarded electronics for educational use, helping communities in need.

DIVE DEEPER: IT asset disposition improves sustainability.

“It’s important that companies know of options to donate their old electronic equipment so that it doesn’t end up in a landfill,” says Dylan Zajac, founder and executive director of Computers 4 People.

Besides donation, IT leaders have a range of options to reduce e-waste. For example, schools can also resell devices to an IT service provider or refurbish them to salvage working parts.

3. Implement a Lifecycle Management Strategy

To get the maximum ROI for ed tech, it needs to run properly and last a long time. That’s where a technology lifecycle management strategy comes in. It can help schools plan their investments in tech, reducing waste in budgets and the environment.

An effective lifecycle management strategy considers the complete IT environment, from hardware to cloud-based programs and applications. It requires two components: IT asset management and IT asset disposal. In short, how will IT leaders manage their technology during active use? And once it is time to retire the technology, how can the organization dispose of it responsibly?

Answering these questions will help K–12 institutions extend the lifecycle of their technology and ensure that each product works to achieve the school’s overall mission.

UP NEXT: Sustainability stretches K–12 schools’ budgets.

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