Schools aim to reduce carbon footprint

While the Vernon School District is doing all it can to reduce its carbon footprint, it still ended up paying out more than $70,000 to offset the amount of carbon dioxide it produces.

At Tuesday’s district board meeting, secretary-treasurer Randy Hoffman explained the process to trustees that is ensuring the district is compliant with legislative and regulatory responsibilities, including the Greenhouse Reduction Targets Act, The Carbon Tax Act, the Carbon Neutral Government Regulation and Climate Action Charter.

“We do actually receive the carbon tax back for diesel fuel and gasoline that is used in the transportation of students, so even though we have to pay at the pump, we do recover some of it,” he said.

The district filed its claim to recover the carbon tax for the 2010 calendar year of $51,224.54 for 145,489 litres of diesel and 35,474.5 litres of gasoline.

On March 31, a carbon offset purchase order was issued to Pacific Carbon Trust for $73,283.29 including an HST value of $7,851.78, which is the cost to offset 2,617.24 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Hoffman said this calculation is prepared using the government-mandated Smarttool program, which costs the district 48 cents per student annually.

“The CO2 is calculated by the natural gas, propane and electric power used in our buildings, the amount of copy and print paper we consume — which was 203 tonnes; and mobile fuel combustion,” he said.

Pacific Carbon Trust is a Crown corporation, created to deliver greenhouse gas offsets to help clients reduce their carbon footprint. It offers carbon offsets, measured as one metric tonne of carbon dioxide or equivalent that is reduced or removed from the atmosphere as a result of emission-reducing activities. A carbon offset represents a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions generated by activities, such as improved energy efficiency, that can be used to balance the emissions from another source, such as a plane trip.

“The significant area for us is our buildings: retrofitting and new buildings using current green technology,” said Hoffman. “We also use funding from the annual facilities grant to undertake mechanical retrofits and building exterior work to reduce heating and air conditioning requirements.

Over the past few years, work has been done at Kidston, JW Inglis, Okanagan Landing, BX, Harwood and Mission Hill schools. As well, the district has received funding for a lighting upgrade at Fulton under the Public Sector Energy Conservation program between the provincial government and BC Hydro.

“Other options would be a Ministry of Education proposal of funding mechanical upgrades by using AFG funds would be a welcome initiative and not sending money to PCT and using the money for additional conservation projects or having access to the funds collected by PCT for projects,” said Hoffman.

The district has received recognition from BC Hydro for its commitment to energy conservation.

“Trustees are aware that various school districts have addressed concerns to the ministry respecting use of student funding to offset the costs of not achieving a zero carbon footprint without funding to address carbon costs and the mandate of Pacific Carbon Trust versus the ability of school districts to access funding from them to reduce our carbon footprint.

“My recommendation is to do what other districts have done and talk to the ministry about why this has to be done.”

We should be proud that we have reduced our consumption, and we have to advise the government of things we do to reduce our footprint.”