When school doors opened across the nation for the new school year, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) launched the third year of its National Green Schools Campaign. This broad-based initiative promotes the improvement of indoor environmental quality and increased energy, water and resource efficiency of America's schools.
On Sept. 8, USGBC and 11 educational and environmental groups kicked off the Coalition for Green Schools at a meeting that addressed the important pathways for greening America's schools. The meeting featured remarks by Martha Kanter, undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Education, and marked the first ever alliance between the nation's leading educational and environmental organizations to advocate for healthy, safe and sustainable K-12 learning environments.
On the heels of the Coalition event, Adobe Systems announced its support of the Mayors' Alliance for Green Schools by funding renovation and repair projects for three Alliance-identified schools, in Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. The Alliance, initiated in October 2008 by Mayor Martin Diaz of Miami and Mayor Greg Nickels of Seattle in partnership with the USGBC, is a coalition of mayors across the country looking to promote the benefits of green schools in their communities.
Later in September, USGBC hosted its second Annual Congressional Advocacy Day, in which more than 100 advocates from USGBC Chapters converged in Washington to call on their congressional representatives about the importance of green schools, and to thank them for their support of the stimulus package that has helped fund the renovation and repair of many schools. The USGBC has also begun year two of its 50 for 50 Initiative, which aims to create green schools caucuses in all 50 state legislatures within two years. Sixteen caucuses have been established so far, with another dozen in formative stages.
According to the USGBC, 20 percent of the nation's population spends their days in a K-12 school, and many of those schools are substandard. Green schools cost less money to operate and use less energy and water. On average, green schools save $100,000 per year, which could pay for two new teachers, buy 100 new computers or purchase 5,000 new textbooks.
"There is no more important work we have before us than making sure that every one of our children attends a school where the learning environment works for them, not against them," said Rick Fedrizzi, president and CEO, USGBC. "Our National Green Schools Campaign has sought to make this a priority agenda item for school districts, local and state government bodies, and for those who set the national agenda in our schools, who like USGBC, would like to get this done within our generation."
Fedrizzi noted significant progress has been made in the past 12 months, including federal, state and local initiatives, including the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public Schools Facilities Act, funding for green school construction and renovation as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the "Making Green Schools a Reality" Resolution.
USGBC's LEED for Schools green building certification has helped grow the stock of green schools nationwide, and on average, more than one school registers with LEED each day. There are currently more than 185 LEED certified schools, and nearly 1,706 more have registered their intent to seek certification.
"However, given that there are some 126,000 schools in America, we clearly have more to do," Fedrizzi said. "We anticipate that this effort will continue to attract policy makers, parents, student, teachers, and the many groups who see this as a concrete way to care for our children's future, and save taxpayer dollars in improved long-term operations of these facilities."