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KPS students work with Consumers Energy to improve efficiency within the school district

KPS Battle of the Buildings.jpg
Kalamazoo Public Schools students tour the boiler room at Kalamazoo Central High School on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. They students are learning how the building is heated, as part of a program that will have them developing plans to{ } make the building more efficient. (WWMT/Randi Burns){ }

A team of 12 students from Kalamazoo Central High School has teamed up with Consumers Energy on a project they hope will have them winning a competition known as Battle of the Buildings.

An awards program for energy use reduction, the Michigan Battle of the Buildings is open to all Michigan commercial, industrial and multi-family buildings. The students are participating in the education division of the competition.

"Battle of the Buildings is a competition that was started by the Green Building Council and it was to incentivise reducing energy for businesses and different institutions," senior Natalie Gross said. "We are in the educational category for different schools."

Consumers Energy and its energy waste reduction partners plan to meet with the students each Tuesday over the next six weeks. The energy company will help the students complete energy efficiency measurements and studies. The work also will assist the students in another competition, called the Lexus Eco Challenge. The team, calling themselves the Kalamazoo Central Climate Advocates, already won $10,000 in the first round of the Eco Challenge, and plans to include the Battle of the Buildings work in their goal to the win the grand prize.

"Consumers Energy is benchmarking all the buildings, figuring out what our energy usage is and where we have inefficiencies that could be improved upon," physics teacher Josh Gottlieb said. Gottlieb is the team's adviser.

"We get all that data back and then the students are mentored through the process of analyzing that data," Gottlieb said. "They're going to put together proposals for district administration to figure out how we can reduce the carbon footprint of the district, while saving the district money."

The Lexus Eco Challenge is a nationwide education program and contest about the environment, encouraging middle and high school students to develop environmental programs that positively impact their communities. The challenge was designed by Lexus and Scholastic in support of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Agenda. Only eight teams across the country moved forward to the final round.

The KC Climate Advocates competed in the Air and Climate category of the Lexis Eco Challenge, focusing on efforts to make Kalamazoo Public Schools a greener school district. The students formed a partnership among the school district, the U.S. Green Building Council and Consumers Energy.

"Right now, we're working on creating a plan to change out some of the light bulbs to reduce the energy," Gross said.

Students said getting involved with the KC Climate Advocates was something they wanted to do, to work towards a better climate.

"I got involved in the group because I saw that they were going to do something and I wanted to be a part of it," Gross said. "I saw that they were going to work on impacts that would be direct, so reducing our energy is a direct impact that can lessen climate change. I saw that and wanted to be a part of that."

Junior Kearney Miller said, "I started to get involved with this group initially at the beginning of the year when I started taking physics with Mr. Gottleib and he presented all this information about climate change to us. I've always been aware of everything going on, but it seems like a hard issue to tackle. So when we started a group here I joined right away."

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