First School District in Connecticut to Commit 100% Clean Energy
On June 3, the Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education passed a resolution establishing a goal of transitioning the Region 18 school district to 100% clean energy by 2030, becoming the first school district in Connecticut to do so.
This victory started with one person who wanted to make a difference. Old Lyme resident, parent, and renewable energy professional, Rebecca Waldo successfully turned her concern about climate change into local action with a lot of determination and the support of Sierra Club’s Climate Parents program.
Rebecca first reached out to town leaders in October 2019 to share her ideas: schools could be run with renewable energy, heated with zero-emission, all-electric heat pumps, and diesel buses and other district vehicles could be replaced with electric alternatives—all by 2030. Phasing out all fossil fuels with 100% clean, renewable energy saves school districts much-needed funds that can be reinvested back into the classrooms. It also improves indoor air quality, which not only improves kids' health but is also known to improve academic performance. Other benefits include creating new local jobs, expanding STEM learning opportunities, and enhancing community resilience when clean electricity is coupled with battery storage, as schools are often emergency shelter sites during climate crises and grid failure. Her campaign was met with some interest, as well as some reluctance.
Not deterred, Rebecca forged on. In November 2019, she attended a Sierra Club Climate Parents and Ready for 100 training in Hartford, where she met with other volunteer leaders from around the Northeast. She left with a boost of confidence as well as strategies to win. Soon thereafter, she and other parents in the district formed a team that began to attend school board meetings and reach out to decision-makers. They collected hundreds of signatures of support from the community.
The team put together data on Region 18’s electricity and fossil fuel use and developed a pathway to reach 100% clean energy by 2030. With this information and a draft resolution, they were ready to present to the school board. Even COVID-19 didn’t stop them. They made the case that now was the time to act, and on June 3, the Board of Education agreed. The resolution passed unanimously.
School districts are major energy consumers—transitioning school districts to 100% clean energy is a powerful way to reduce harmful emissions, mitigate climate change, and build momentum for 100% clean energy across the community, state, and even the nation. Old Lyme’s historic, district-wide commitment to clean energy is joined by similar commitments by school districts in Los Angeles and San Diego, California; Salt Lake City, Utah; Madison, Wisconsin; and Mounds View, Minnesota, to just name a few.
Get Your School District Involved!
If you are interested in setting a 100% clean energy goal in your district, get your Climate Parents’ 100% clean energy organizing toolkit and "how to" handbook today! Please also contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved!
Samantha Dynowski is State Director, Sierra Club Connecticut.