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Irish tops when it comes to going green

Rosemount High School students are at the top when it comes to cutting back on power consumption.

The Irish are currently in first place among high schools participating in the Minnesota Energy Challenge. More than 104 students have signed up at RHS to take steps to reduce their energy consumption.

The school's efforts started with a Feb. 6 presentation from the Center for Energy and the Environment. Students learned about how much power their video game systems drain even when they're not in use, or the phantom power drains created by cell phone chargers and other items.

Students signed pledges to take steps such as composting more or washing clothes in cold water. One RHS teacher went home and replaced all of her light bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.

Taken together the pledges add up to an estimated 1.4 million pound reduction in the amount of carbon monoxide produced by RHS students.

"It's a good start," RHS science teacher Veda Kanitz said. "It just got them thinking about it. They had no idea what a phantom power source was. Every one of them has a gaming system."

Schools that participate in the challenge are judged against each other by the amount by which they pledge to reduce their CO2 production.

For a while RHS had more pledges than first-place Prior Lake, but students had not pledged to make enough changes to their behavior.

Kanitz said students got excited about the challenges as RHS moved up the ranks.

"As we went from 27th place to fourth place everybody wanted to get involved," she said.

Other efforts

The Minnesota Energy Challenge is one of several efforts under way or in the works to make the Irish even greener. The school's Green Club, new this year, was responsible for bringing the challenge to RHS and has led other efforts including a drive to encourage composting in the school cafeteria.

RHS is one of three Minnesota schools to receive a $500 grant aimed at helping Minnesota schools cut their carbon emissions. For that grant Kanitz is filling out n 18-page document on the school's carbon baseline. A consultant will spend four hours at the school in April and will give suggestions on how to make changes.

The grant puts RHS in the running for a $20,000 grant available next year.