Students see a way to potentially shrink the Pleasanton Unified School District’s carbon footprint and save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by using technology.

A team of 32 high school and college interns spent nine weeks this summer learning to collect and analyze data on energy use for schools and city-owned buildings.

They performed the research as part of a Go Green Initiative study. Founder and CEO Jill Buck started the environmental education nonprofit in 2002 at her kitchen table in Pleasanton. She now works with schools across the globe from an office above a convenience store near her home.

At the school board on Aug. 27, Buck joined students in Pleasanton as they shared the data they found for campuses. Next month, they plan to provide similar information about buildings owned by the City of Pleasanton to the City Council.

Students used a computer program to look at energy consumption and costs on each campus and compare them.

Alisal Elementary School fell in the middle with a median spending of $1.56 per square foot. Bringing costs at less-efficient campuses in line with that midpoint could save about $341,000 a year, students found.

The district spends almost $2.2 million annually on its energy bills. Savings from cutting school utility costs could go toward hiring a sustainability coordinator and help pay for public education campaigns, they said.

Although the research students this summer focused on current consumption and costs, a future study could look into energy-saving building materials and more efficient heating and cooling equipment.

The district could eventually partner with Pleasanton’s Climate Action Plan and work towards the goal of running schools from 100% renewable energy sources, they said.

Buck told the board that some districts have hired retired superintendents to take a “behavior-modification” approach to cutting energy consumption in schools. They meet with current administrators and suggest rules, such as reminding students to shut down computers at the end of each day.

But the monitoring system GGI recommends would save more money, Buck said. Studies have shown rule following falls after behavior modification programs end.

School trustees said they look forward to learning what students found for other public buildings when they share data with the City Council in October. Leaders could later discuss the findings at a liaison committee between the city and the school district.