Seven Minnesota school districts are among 20 organizations nationwide to meet the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Challenge and earn the Energy Star Leader designation.

In March 2005, EPA launched its Energy Star Challenge by calling on building owners and operators across the country to improve energy efficiency by 10 percent or more. According to EPA estimates, if every U.S. building met the challenge, $10 billion in energy costs could be saved by 2015. The emissions reduction would be equivalent to taking 15 million vehicles off the road. Each year, commercial and institutional buildings spend about $80 billion on energy and cause about 20 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The new Energy Star Leaders in Minnesota are as follows:

Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose School District 877
Burnsville-Eagan-Savage Independent School District 191
Columbia Heights School District
Mahtomedi School District
St. Cloud Area School District 742
St. Louis Park School District 283
Stillwater Area Schools

“Across America, energy savings are soaring because organizations are making smart energy decisions that are good for the environment and good for their wallets,” said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. “Through Energy Star, President Bush and EPA are improving the nation's energy and environmental outlook, and I applaud the leaders for helping hand the next generation a brighter, healthier future.”

Schools, grocery stores, hotels and office buildings are rising to the challenge to use less energy—saving money and helping the environment as a result. Often the steps are simple: turning off lights and computers while not in use, setting temperatures to balance comfort and efficiency, and upgrading to more efficient lighting.

The EPA provides easy-to-use tools to help building owners and managers. The national building energy performance rating system helps them evaluate their energy efficiency on a 100-point scale, set goals and document improvements. Energy Star Leaders have either documented an improvement of 10 points or more or have earned an exemplary average rating across all their buildings. EC