When I was in high school, I remember the lights being on all the time, never shutting down the computers, and enduring sweltering temperatures through the whole winter. While this allowed my school to be bright, active, and warm, energy expenditure made up a large portion of the school’s budget.

But recently, according to the New York Times, schools are beginning to see the light—figuratively that is. With the growing momentum of “green” movements, schools are attempting to minimize their energy consumption through creative and efficient means. Turning lights off in unused classrooms, shutting off rooftop exhaust valves, evaluating the energy used in swimming pools and cafeteria ovens, replacing old fixtures with energy saving models, using solar panels, and—in the case of Mount Sinai School District on Long Island, NY—appointing an “Official Energy Manager” to police the halls of the schools, are all methods working wonders for the budget and the environment.

The appointing of an Energy Manager has reduced Mount Sinai’s utility costs by 30% since 2007, and simply keeping an eye on expenditure in New Jersey’s Holmdel Township has cut gas and electric by about half since 2009, saving $1 million annually. In addition to cutting costs, the benefits to the environment are equally impressive. The Holmdel Township schools use 3.5 million fewer kilowatts of power, and 240,000 less therms of heat annually.

Recognizing the benefits these practices create for schools, the Bloomberg administration in New York City created a month-long competition in which the schools that voluntarily decreased energy usage were awarded $100,000.

By being more energy-conscious, large schools can save, and occasionally earn, money to be better spent on improving class materials and quality of education for students while also helping reduce the energy consumption that affects global warming. Because schools are comprised of large buildings that foster hundreds of people at a time, their positive impact—especially when united—can be great.

If more schools around the country (and other large establishments) begin to monitor their energy following the examples of Mount Sinai and Holmdel Township, everyone—including students, administrators, and our ever-so-fragile atmosphere—will benefit immensely.

If you’re passionate about the environment and want to try “greening up” your school or school district, check out The Green Schools Alliance. The organization provides a “toolkit” of ideas and suggestions on how to improve energy conservation, while also hosting competitions and events for schools across the country to participate in.