San Mateo County Office of Education’s Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Initiative

The San Mateo County Office of Education (SMCOE) launched its Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Initiative at the start of the 2017-18 school year. The initiative’s vision is for the school communities and leaders to prioritize sustainability integration and environmental literacy for all students. The initiative supports a broad variety of complementary programs and efforts, including:

  • Collective Impact – Campus as a Laboratory for Learning Program: This program utilizes the Collective Impact Approach to bring together school districts and their broader community to “green” one aspect of their school’s facilities and operations, while utilizing these efforts in curriculum and instruction as a “living laboratory” for learning. See a full description of this project here.
  • Community-Based Environmental Literacy Partners Network: SMCOE regularly convenes the Community-Based Environmental Literacy Partners network to foster collaboration among organizations that offer environmental literacy programs. The goal of this network is to foster capacity and consistency building by aligning programs and further integrating them into districts and schools.
  • Environmental Literacy Initiative Community of Practice: With this project, SMCOE convenes a network of educators on a quarterly basis to focus on the knowledge, skills and values needed to move environmental literacy forward across all school communities. Its focus is to build capacity through comprehensive professional development, knowledge sharing, and joint campaigning to secure funding for environmental sustainability efforts.
  • Environmental Youth Leadership Network and Summits: The Environmental Youth Leaders Network brings together students in grades 7 through 12 who are eager to make an environmental sustainability impact in their communities. The network convenes three times a year for summits held during the fall, winter and spring.

One Planet Schools Challenge: This recognition and awards program fosters a culture of sustainability in school communities across the county by providing a structure and roadmap for achieving the vision of sustainability integration. It identifies champions who are leading meaningful change and recognizes them for their positive impact toward creating a sustainable future.

Schools for a Sustainable Future Summit: This annual one-day summit creates a space for networking, problem solving and exchanging innovative solutions that are driving environmental and social transformation in school communities.

San Mateo Environmental Teacher Fellowships: This program offers paid teacher fellowships that build teacher capacity for designing and delivering hands-on, student-centered, solutions-oriented, and problem- and project-based learning experiences that integrate real-world environmental and social issues.

Online Community Outreach is a grassroots nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) items for free in their own communities. Its main goal is to keep reusable items out of the landfills. This resource can be accessed by San Mateo County residents here.

Neighborland is a public engagement platform for government agencies, developers and civic organizations. In the Bay Area, Neighborland has worked with the City and County of San Francisco and the cities of Oakland and San Jose to engage communities in planning, urban development and resilience building.

The Buy Nothing Project is an international movement of Facebook groups that give and share items among members. It has more than 1.2 million participants in at least 25 countries, led by at least 6,000 volunteers. Before buying anything, members are encouraged to ask the group if anyone has what they need. Groups in California are listed here.

The San Mateo County Green Challenge educates and encourages individuals and households to contribute to energy efficiency by turning their efforts into a game. The game includes 10 sustainability-related categories followed by action items, of varying difficulty levels, that participants can complete in order to earn points. For example, under the energy-efficiency category, participants can take any or all of the 22 actions and earn points. These actions range from drying clothes on the line to completing a home energy checkup to upgrading ovens/stoves. The platform also includes a moderated discussion forum and tips and tricks for the participants, making them aware of the impact of each of the actions. This gamified approach shows how each person can reduce impact, save money, improve community and help create a safer, healthier future.

Nextdoor is a neighborhood hub and social networking service that encourages the exchange of helpful information, goods and services. Information from the San Mateo County Manager’s Office and Peninsula Clean Energy Authority, as well as other local and city-specific renewable energy information, is available on Nextdoor.

California Materials Exchanges (CalMAX)  CalRecycle’s materials exchange portal helps connect businesses, organizations, manufacturers, schools, and individuals with the most effective online resources for exchanging materials.

Resource Area for Teaching (RAFT) is a way for businesses to donate surplus materials to schools. Raft has impressively diverted 300 tons of material from landfill annually and over 1 million cubic feet of upcycled materials to date.

Bay Area Regional Energy Network (BayREN)

BayREN implements energy savings programs throughout the nine Bay Area counties. It serves homeowners, renters, multifamily property owners, workers and businesses.

For residents, BayREN Home+ offers cash rebates for home improvements while providing support services and a list of certified contractors. Single family homeowners can receive incentives for installing highly efficient electric space heating, water heating, clothes air-drying and induction cooking ranges individually or in combination with other building improvements. Through the Home Energy Score tool, BayREN assesses a home’s envelope and major energy systems in a standardized way and then provides homeowners with customized suggestions for improving the home’s energy efficiency.  Energy-saving projects that are self-completed by residents or completed by contractors outside BayREN’s approved list are not eligible for reimbursement.

BayREN offers cash rebates and no-cost energy consulting for multifamily properties undertaking energy and water upgrades. The program assists in planning energy-saving improvements designed to save 15% or more of a building’s energy and water usage and provides $750 per unit in rebates to help pay for the upgrade. Improvements can include heating and cooling systems, water heating systems, gas-to-electric conversions, lighting and appliances, building sealing and insulation, and electrification measures.

Participating Contractors and Assessors: BayREN is enrolling contractors for all its programs. Only enrolled contractors may perform work eligible for reimbursement. BayREN contractors or assessors get support for leads development, training and access to other regional workforce resources. You can learn more about this topic here.

BayREN’s new innovative program provides small or medium businesses with upgrades for energy-efficient lighting, HVAC and refrigeration equipment at no “out-of-pocket” cost. Small or medium businesses must meet one or more of the following criteria: facility size of less than 50,000 square feet, energy use of less than 500,000 kWh/year or less than 250,000 therms/year, at least 12 months of prior-energy-usage history and location in one of the nine BayREN counties including San Mateo County. BayREN has partnered with the Mission Asset Fund (MAF) to provide small and medium businesses with 0% interest microloans of up to $2,500 to help cover the cost of energy-efficiency improvements.

Other Programs for Schools and Places of Worship

Peninsula Clean Energy has awarded grants of up to $75,000 each for innovative local pilot projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and deliver benefits to the communities of San Mateo County. California Interfaith Power and Light is one of the local pilot awardees. Funding will enable California Interfaith Power and Light to recruit relevant professionals and develop plans to equip three to five faith institutions in San Mateo County to act as community emergency hubs. These hubs will have access to clean energy backup power through solar panels and battery storage. They will be open to all residents in the community in the event of an emergency, such as a major earthquake.

San Carlos School District: More than $1 billion in state revenue is now accessible for schools throughout the state to implement energy-efficiency upgrades through California Proposition 39 (Prop 39). San Mateo County Energy Watch has supported 20 school districts in the county by providing energy audits and assistance with writing Energy Expenditure Plans (EEPs) needed to access these funds. Out of the 22 K-12 school districts in San Mateo County, 20 submitted EEPs and were approved for Prop 39 funding. In 2018 the San Carlos School District was awarded $1.5 million to add solar electricity generation at six sites; upgrade interior and exterior lighting to LED; install smart, programmable thermostats; upgrade to high-efficiency heating and cooling systems; and implement an energy management system.

Peninsula Interfaith Climate Action, a nonprofit group made up of several congregations, provides information and comprehensive resources on energy efficiency and renewable-energy options such as solar installations. It works with local congregations to save water and reduce greenhouse gases. Congregations have installed solar panels and EV charging stations and are exploring alternatives to natural gas for heating systems. Click here to visit the organization’s resource page.