Schools have been teaching energy conservation for decades. Now more of those schools are able to incorporate a little math into their lessons about the value of turning off the lights. The New York Times reports that one Long Island school district was able to achieve some $350,000 in annual utility savings simply by sticking post-it notes by classroom computers, printers and air conditioners reminding people to turn off equipment that was not in use.

Likewise, New York City schools have reduced energy consumption by 11% since 2008 through similarly simple measures such as installing motion detectors to control classroom lights and unplugging unused equipment.

The lesson could not be clearer: Simple conservation efforts add up.

If there is a silver lining to the rising costs of energy and the reduced funding available for many schools, it’s that these challenging numbers have forced schools to look everywhere for savings. And that has brought them back to basics, underscoring that little things like turning off lights really do make a difference. Never mind the more sophisticated  techniques to reduce utility bills like installing rooftop solar panels, schools around the country are proving that savings are available to anyone willing to invest a little effort – and maybe a couple packages of post-it notes. And some of those savings have paid for more high-tech solutions, such as rooftop solar panels. Indeed, savings beget savings.

This all may sound pretty, well, elementary, but these lessons in conservation are not just for grade-schoolers. Colleges too are going beyond offering coursework in environmental studies these days, to fostering an environment on campus in which students can practice conservation regardless of what they study. A majority of prospective college students now say that the level of “eco-friendliness” on campus would influence their final decision on where to study. When these students go on campus tours they are looking for LEED-certified buildings, solar panels … and for professors who remember to turn the lights off after they finish that lecture on sustainability.