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State and Local Climate and Energy Program

Reading, Riding, and Retrofit: Schools Leading the Way to Sustainability

Buncombe County and Asheville, North Carolina

Federal Funding: $499,500
Project Timeline: February 2010 – June 2012

Latest Update

Green Teams in schools throughout the Land-Of-Sky region have implemented projects that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve energy, and reduce operational costs. Schools throughout the region completed energy efficiency projects, including lighting retrofits in school gymnasiums, upgrades of electronic interfaces, and installation of solar hot water systems. Buncombe County Schools purchased Design Case project kits, which can be used to teach kids how to up-cycle and re-purpose materials into new objects. Project staff updated the project website and are developing a statewide NC Green Schools Recognition Program, as an outgrowth of the regional program. Future work includes following up with schools for energy and cost savings measurements and report to school boards the results of the energy efficiency projects.


Oakley Elementary Green Team Project.

Oakley Elementary Green Team Project

Students at Oakley Elementary are learning about local food production, solar energy, and carbon footprinting through a greenhouse project.

Project Summary

Energy and Transportation Efficiency Improvements Starts in the Schools

To support Buncombe's growing green industry sector, the Land-of-Sky Regional Planning Council developed Reading, Riding, and Retrofit, a collaborative program that provides city and county school systems with tools to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, conserve energy, and reduce operational costs while educating students and the community. This project uses two strategies to achieve these goals:

  • Funding school building and transportation energy efficiency retrofits while implementing sustainable policies and procedures, and
  • Mobilizing "Green Teams" to undertake school-based sustainability projects.

To implement energy efficiency retrofits in school buildings, the Land-of-Sky Council is coordinating energy efficiency training workshops with facilities, maintenance, and custodial staff. The Council is directing sub-grants to school retrofits that meet cost-effectiveness, GHG reduction, and energy use reduction criteria.

At the same time, transportation planning staff are working with schools to identify transportation energy efficiency improvements. The project will also institutionalize sustainable policies to ensure greater use of recycled and renewable products, that new appliances meet energy efficiency guidelines, and that lunch programs include a greater share of locally-grown foods.

Green Teams composed of students, teachers, parents, and custodial staff will provide support, education, and outreach for the Reading, Riding, and Retrofit project. These Teams are conducting Environmental Leadership Projects such as school-wide recycling competitions, student-organized energy audits, commuter challenges, community gardens, composting programs, or environmental art contests.

The project will provide benefits from reduced GHG emissions and cost savings, job training opportunities, increased community awareness of sustainability issues, and improved health and educational experiences for students. It will also strengthen existing partnerships between the Council and many stakeholders including participating schools and other energy-related coalitions and projects in the region. The Land-of-Sky Council views the Reading, Riding, and Retrofit project as an important first step towards a far-reaching sustainability plan for schools across the County.

Community Characteristics

Population: 75,000 (Asheville)
223,000 (Buncombe County)
Area: 41 square miles (Asheville)
656 square miles (Buncombe County)
Government Type: Regional Council
Community Type: Urban
Median Household Income: $43,805

Program Results/Estimated Results

Expected GHG Reductions: 1,129 metric tons CO2e annually
Actual GHG Reductions (as of June 2012): 1,267 metric tons CO2e annually
Expected Electricity Savings: 1,672 MWh annually
Actual Electricity Savings (as of June 2012): 1,905 MWh annually
Expected Natural Gas Savings: 82,850 therms annually
Expected Transportation Fuel Savings: 90,100 gallons annually
Expected Waste Reduction: 109 short tons annually
Expected Cost Savings: $552,000 annually
Actual Cost Savings (as of June 2012): $198,161 annually

Program Websites

Media Coverage

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