By Abby Spegman

The Bulletin

Does the copier need to stay on all night? What about those lights? And does anyone actually use that vending machine?

These are the sorts of questions local teachers, students and principals will ask themselves as part of a competition that pits schools against each other for the chance to win $1,500.

Bend recently placed 11th in preliminary rankings for the Georgetown University Energy Prize for $5 million.

The two-year national competition encourages cities or counties to conserve, and municipal electricity and natural gas measurements are a major component.

To get schools on board, The Environmental Center, which is leading the Bend team, approached Bend-La Pine Schools about having its own competition, beginning this month and running through August.

The district’s annual electricity bill exceeds $1 million.

“They have such a large utility bill every year that we thought in order to motivate them a little bit more and get the teachers involved — because they’re the ones who have to do the day-to-day work — we would set up a competition,” said Kim McClain of The Environmental Center.

Each month, schools will be scored in certain areas to earn points. This month, they are being asked to do an energy audit and pick staff to lead sustainability efforts, if they haven’t already.

The competition will focus on small steps schools can take to save energy — such as ensuring the heating system cools down on the weekends and shutting off computers and projectors overnight. Juniper Elementary School, for instance, recently removed a vending machine in the staff room, saving about $350 a year, after a staff survey showed few people used it.

The competition will continue into the summer, when students are out but plenty of machines remain plugged in.

“We wanted to make sure that this summer they were focused on that,” McClain said. “Even if they have summer school classes, not all the lights in the rest of the building have to be on all day.”

In the end, the winning elementary, middle and high schools will each receive $1,500 donated by Karnopp Petersen LLP.

— Reporter: 541-617-7837,