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Dear Decaturish – Decatur High juniors launch ‘Net Zero’ initiative

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Dear Decaturish – Decatur High juniors launch ‘Net Zero’ initiative

Decatur High School, City Schools of Decatur, N McDonough Street.

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Dear Decaturish,

We are juniors at Decatur High School. We’re launching a Net Zero initiative to propose that the City Schools of Decatur (CSD) get to net-zero emissions and to build support across the CSD and Decatur community to do so. We will propose this at the CSD Strategic Planning community input meeting on September 6.

There is an international scientific consensus to work to keep global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of climate change and to protect the long-term health of our communities and the world. Because the planet has already warmed by about 1.2 degrees Celsius, we need to act quickly and take actual steps to get there. As we can tell from recent heat waves and major flooding, the effects are real and people’s lives, homes, and communities are in danger.

While we don’t have all the answers, these issues will affect us students and young people the most. We can’t wait anymore, or it will be too late. We’ve seen other schools and school districts in the country take steps – and we believe that CSD can do it too and develop a plan. We already have a lot of tools, resources, and supportive people right here in the Decatur community to help make this a reality, like Agnes Scott College, Emory, Decatur 100, and the Wylde Center just to name a few.

We believe that CSD should develop a plan as part of its Strategic Planning to aim for net-zero. That might include:

– Review CSD’s current energy use in CSD schools and buildings and CSD’s CO2

– Electric buses. Support more electric school buses and other electric CSD vehicles in the fleet. Under recent federal legislation and the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program, $5 billion is available for EV and low-emission school buses and for electric vehicle (EV) charging in the next few years. We are very happy that CSD applied for the initial funding last month – and we hope they will continue in the future if possible.

– EV charging. More EV charging stations at CSD’s schools and buildings, anticipating significantly more EV use in the community. EV sales are growing by 40% or more annually in the country, and by 2030 50% of new cars sold in the U.S. may be zero emission. CSD already has several EV charging stations at Talley Street Upper Elementary School and at CSD’s central offices.

– Solar. More on-site solar or other renewable energy to power CSD’s schools and buildings. In fact, some schools in the U.S. have been able to meet much of their energy needs with a combination of on-site solar, renewable energy, and energy efficiencies. The cost for solar installation has come down by 60-70% by some estimates since 2010. CSD has some solar power at Beacon Hill Middle School and at Talley Street, saving thousands in energy costs.

– Improved energy efficiency. Major energy efficiency steps and energy audits can dramatically drive down energy costs and CO2 emissions for existing buildings. This includes focusing on heating, cooling, and lighting efficiency – they add up and can make a difference.

– Waste reduction. We also support more recycling, food waste composting, and waste reduction.

– Pilot efforts starting at some CSD schools, involving the school community, students, and families in a holistic way. This can help unite the community toward these important goals.

We recognize that CSD have already taken real steps in this direction. We also support the City of Decatur’s development of a Clean Energy Plan, which proposes to have (1) all municipal buildings by 2030, (2) all municipal vehicles and community buildings (commercial and residential) by 2035, and (3) all other community uses by 2050 be powered by clean and renewable energy. However, this plan does not directly apply to CSD. We think that CSD should take a similar approach and develop a plan and path to net-zero for CSD buildings and vehicles.

First and foremost, this is to help CSD and the Decatur community. But we believe that CSD can get to net-zero and be a leader in Georgia and the U.S., developing a model for other small school districts around the nation. We understand that there are many important challenges facing schools now, but we think that this issue can help unite CSD and Decatur to work towards this shared goal. It may not be easy to reach net-zero, but we must try in order to ensure our futures. We might be surprised how much we can do together.

If you are interested in joining, please contact us at [email protected]. We want input and help from CSD students, teachers, staff, families, residents, and the Decatur community. We look forward to working on this and with CSD.


– Gordon Lichtstein and Jay Sandler, Decatur High School students

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