For a district with 18 schools and more than 14,000 students in 1.7 million square feet of space, reducing energy means significant public savings.

Through new technology and practical measures, the Kenton County School District has saved $1 million in avoided energy costs during a yearlong period.

“People can see we’re trying to get the most while creating as little waste as possible,” says Dr. Terri Cox-Cruey, superintendent of Kenton County Schools. “We’re proud of the work we’re doing, but we’re more proud that we’re educating our students to become better consumers.”

In April, the school was named a 2014 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star Partner of the Year for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy Star, a voluntary market-based partnership started by the EPA in 1992, offers energy efficiency solutions for cost-saving practices that lower emissions. Through pragmatic procedures, like turning the heat down during school breaks, installing LED lights and using rainwater to flush toilets, the school district has created an eco-friendly culture.

“They add an element of education with students and teachers which is ‘everyone can make a difference,’ ” says Jean Lupinacci, chief of Energy Star’s commercial and industrial branch. “They’ve adopted a culture of continuous energy management and it’s kind of ingrained in their organization. It goes beyond energy savings.”

From starting elementary school recycling programs to getting high school students involved in selecting new lights for the school, Kenton County has brought a student body into the fold for its environmentally conscious mission.

This is the second year in a row the school has been named an energy-efficient operation. Cox-Cruey credits the Kenton County school board for the success. The board hired an energy systems coordinator to monitor consumption while seeking new ways to cut costs. The coordinator even works with students interested in learning about energy while assisting the school.

Since 2005, Kenton County’s most recently constructed schools—Twenhofel Middle School, Turkey Foot Middle School and Caywood Elementary School—have created $2 million in energy savings. All three schools feature geothermal heating and solar panels, both of which contribute to significant energy savings.

Lupinacci works in Washington, D.C. and monitors energy savings projects in schools and businesses across the United States. She says the efforts in Kenton County are emblematic of the Bluegrass State’s commitment to responsible living.

“There is a lot of support in Kentucky for energy efficiency,” says Lupinacci. “It’s starting at the state level and working down to other entities, like school districts.”