SMMUSD touted their future sustainability goals and claimed to be on track with their current ones in information presented to the public last week.

The district’s sustainability plan was adopted in March of 2019, and it serves to make the district a more efficient, healthy and sustainable community. There are eight focus areas in the plan and each one of them has specific goals and strategies.

Under their climate goal, SMMUSD wants to develop a greenhouse gas emissions inventory.

SMMUSD’s manager of sustainability Austin Toyama said the district will log all emissions from facilities and record district operations as a measure of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. He said they have the ability to monitor utility use and an online platform to organize the efforts.

“This is something we’re going to be focusing on this year, and in the coming years,” he said. “But once we set this inventory and establish it, we’ll be able to set baseline levels of our missions and set reduction goals for years to come.”

Education and engagement is a focus area of the district that has been doing fairly well in.

“Some of our past student programs have included the waste warriors, lunchtime waste sorting program,” Toyama said. “Energy detectives, which is a classroom, energy conservation program, teaching behavioral changes, and the importance of conservation, as well as current initiatives that we’ve been working on.”

The district continues to implement green building design standards for new construction as well. A lot of SMMUSD’s new buildings feature sustainable designs like solar arrays on the roof, energy-efficient HVAC systems, natural ventilation, and electric vehicle charging stations.

Energy efficiency and renewables is an area of focus that led to retrofits for all outdoor and indoor lights in the district. The pandemic also provided a silver lining by reducing energy consumption by over 20%.

Currently, SMMUSD is receiving 40% renewable energy from the Clean Power Alliance, which is the local community choice aggregate for renewable energy. The district was receiving 100% renewable for all of their sites, up until March of 2021 when costs increased.

With the entire state of California in a major water drought, SMMUSD shifted their eyes to water and waste. About 80% of the district’s water costs is represented by outdoor irrigation and thus represents the biggest opportunity for savings. The district is working with the City of Santa Monica’s water neutrality program to install high-efficiency toilets, urinals and faucet aerators that will help reduce daily water use for the remaining indoor 20%.

“You know, student and staff training is a major component of solid waste, and it remains a challenge to really get everyone on the same page, using the same recycling methods and adhering to our district standards for recycling and waste sorting,” Toyama said. “So, education and engagement is ongoing.”

Encouraging environmentally friendly ways to arrive at school were discussed too. There was a recent transportation demand survey at Santa Monica High to decrease single-occupancy vehicles, promote biking, walking and busing to school.

SMMUSD is in talks with LA Metro to allow the district to purchase tap cards for students at a discounted rate, and it would enable students to ride for free on the Big Blue Bus and Metro.

daniel@smdp.com