Boulder Valley School District

Sustainability in Action

Child and adult with bike
Susan Cousins

En Español

BVSD continues to make progress on the goals established in the Sustainability Action Plan. Staff provided an annual update to the Board recently in honor of Earth month. The district is in year three of a five-year effort towards its latest set of sustainability goals. BVSD has had a formal sustainability program with established goals since 2009.  

The plan is organized in four action areas and has goals within each area with indicators and measures to assess progress. The action areas include Leadership, Operations, Curriculum and Instruction, and Climate and Culture.

A new accomplishment this year in the area of Leadership was the launch of the Sustainability Dashboard, BVSD Sustainability and Energy Officer Dr. Ghita Carroll told the Board. This online digital tool for tracking and viewing data related to the district’s sustainability efforts was rolled out to schools in the fall and is also available to the public. The dashboard publicly and comprehensively shares the sustainability metrics BVSD is tracking and reports school by school how the District is taking action. 

Carroll told the Board there has already been great engagement around the dashboard. Schools recognize the efforts and actions happening at other schools, prompting them to reach out to the District and inquire about how they too can get involved.

“It has been a powerful vehicle for recognizing and celebrating the sustainability work happening in our schools,” Carroll commented. 

The district continues to make progress toward goals related to energy use. Energy use intensity (EUI)(a key indicator measuring a building's efficiency derived from energy consumed in a year divided by square footage), has dropped steadily since 2009 and is trending toward the overall goal of being climate neutral by 2050. To reach this goal, BVSD will need to continue to strive to maximize efficiency in our buildings and offset any remaining carbon with onsite renewables or other credible offsets, Sustainability and Energy Analyst Miles Hoffman explained. 

According to data shared by Hoffman, BVSD has already surpassed our 2026 goal to reduce overall water consumption by 5%. In 2023, overall water use decreased, largely due to a wet spring and early summer. Contributing to this success was a reduction in indoor water use by nearly half from 30.5 gal/sf in 2008 to 17.2 gal/sf in 2023. Rising costs have outpaced these reductions, however. 

Work in the Operations area is tightly aligned with the Green New Deal resolution, Carroll commented. A number of special teams within the Operations Department monitor and track this work, and management documents such as the recently updated Technical Specifications make sure sustainability goals and priorities continue to be supported in the management and construction of our facilities. 

Waste diversion metrics took an expected hit in 2023 due to halting most composting at schools because of changes in composting protocols that affected the entire Front Range. BVSD began rolling compost back into schools last fall, and through February of this school year, BVSD has composted as much as we did in all of 2022-23. Recycling rates have remained steady. The Sustainability Action Plan, set an ambitious goal to divert 50% of waste from landfills by reusing, recycling, and composting. 

Highlights of efforts from the past year to reduce transportation emissions included continuing to grow the fleet of electric buses, increasing participation in Trip Tracker, and a new grant that will create safer routes for walking and biking to connect Crest View Elementary with a new City of Boulder park. Many of BVSD’s efforts related to greening transportation also align with commitments in the Green New Deal resolution passed by the Board last fall, Hoffman commented.  

BVSD PK-12 Science Coordinator Erin Greenwood, shared highlights of how BVSD is integrating sustainability into curriculum and instruction. The overall goal in this area is to provide opportunities for all students at every grade level to experience learning related to  sustainability in their classrooms, schools, and extracurricular activities and is directly in line with the Strategic plan.

“These efforts overlap in many areas, with the Green New Deal resolution,” Greenwood explained. In particular integrating student voices into planning work via direct conversations, student participation on the Sustainability Advisory Committee, and focus groups to learn what students are experiencing in their classrooms. 

Recently, educators have worked to tag topics in Science and Social Studies standards for opportunities to teach about sustainability. This information is included on a new sustainability page of the Instructional Playbook, an online BVSD resource for teachers. In addition, a sustainability rubric has been created that can be used to design or assess resources. A sustainability award was added to the Science Fair this year and educators are in the midst of reviewing secondary level courses and Grad+ pathways to identify where sustainability courses are already offered and where there is opportunity to grow.  

In the area of Climate and Culture, where the District’s goal is to provide regular opportunities for students and families to experience sustainability in action, Carroll reported that a number of school communities have worked with CU masters students to design concepts for green school yards. Two schools are taking action and fundraising to implement pieces of the plans. 

The full presentation to the Board is available to watch on BVSD’s YouTube channel here. You can learn more about BVSD’s sustainability work at our greenBVSD website.


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