Nov 18 2021

What K–12 Technology Departments Need to Know About Green IT

Network monitoring can help schools take steps toward environmental sustainability while saving money.

The nearly 100,000 public K–12 schools in the U.S. sit on 2 million acres of land and are among the largest public energy consumers, according to K12 Climate Action. The Aspen Institute initiative launched in 2020 with the goal of enacting changes in schools that can help move the U.S. toward environmental sustainability.

These measures include shifting to solar power and other clean energy sources, instituting more sustainable food use practices and switching to nonfossil fuel to run school buses. Schools can also take steps to make sure they’re getting rid of e-waste in ways that don’t harm the environment.

But reducing energy consumption is still an important factor, says Tish Tablan, program director of Generation 180’s Solar for All Schools campaign. “In order to get to our vision of 100 percent clean energy, we have to attack both sides of the problem — both reducing energy consumption and cleaning up the sourcing of our power as well,” she says.

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Network Monitoring Helps Schools Track Resource Consumption

One way for schools to evaluate their energy use is by monitoring their resource consumption with network monitoring tools. In Paessler’s most recent annual customer survey, 73 percent of respondents said the company’s PRTG product is suitable for monitoring resource consumption.

The customer survey also revealed that 37 percent of PRTG users have already begun to implement new sustainable IT strategies, and 22 percent will start doing so in the next year.

In addition to benefiting the planet, monitoring resource consumption as part of moving to a greener IT environment can also benefit districts financially. Energy expenditure is one of the top operating costs of K–12 districts.

$8 billion

The amount U.S. schools spend annually on energy costs

Source: The Aspen Institute, “State Policy Landscape 2020,” October 2020

Switching to Solar May Have Implications for Resource Monitoring

According to Solar for All Schools, more than 7,000 schools nationwide now use solar power, making up 5.5 percent of all K–12 public and private schools in the U.S. As more schools incorporate solar energy power, IT departments need to ensure that their monitoring systems can also monitor solar energy consumption, says Tablan.

“Where I have seen challenges for schools from an IT perspective is that when you’re bringing in solar, you have an inverter, and usually the solar installer brings their own software to monitor it. In many cases, that software doesn’t speak to or connect with the software the energy manager is using to monitor the rest of their energy load,” she explains. “So, the challenge for schools is to look for IT solutions that can make it easier to manage all of those systems together.”

School IT Departments Need to Build Resilience to Climate Impacts

Many school districts around the country returned to in-person learning at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, after 18 months of remote learning amid the pandemic. But this year, many students have had to shift back to remote learning for an entirely different reason: extreme weather conditions.

Since the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, extreme weather and climate change–fueled disasters have closed classrooms for 1 million students, according to a report by The 74, a news website that covers education in the United States.

RELATED: What did K–12 schools learn from virtual snow days?

“When schools face disruptions to learning because of smoke or extreme heat or other climate impacts, technology is going to play a critical role in ensuring that there’s continued educational support for these students,” says Laura Schifter, senior fellow with The Aspen Institute and K12 Climate Action lead.

Losing instructional time because of weather, whether it’s extreme heat or heavy snow, can have a financial impact on schools as well. If students have a way to access their education, the day isn’t lost. And greener IT practices mean that the school can operate more efficiently in their absence.

By monitoring resource consumption and taking steps to conserve energy, reduce their carbon footprint and prepare for climate-related school closures, K–12 schools can create greener IT environments for the sake of their budgets and the planet.

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