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Archive for March, 2018


It was my great privilege to be part of the Second Annual Conference of Women4Climate, held last week at the Interactive Museum of Economics. Sponsored by C40, the conference highlighted the significant role and contributions by female leaders around the globe. I represented SUMe, where we strive to educate and encourage our network in achieving climate change mitigation through green building.

Participants in the Women4Climate conference included mayors from cities around the world, such as Rome, Italy; Salt Lake City, Utah; Oslo, Norway; Montreal, Canada; and New Orleans, Louisiana; as well as Mexican women who play an important role today in the care of the environment.

Patricia Espinoza, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Gabriela Warkentin, Director of W Radio, discussed the role of woman in climate change and how we can solve the challenges facing us. Key themes at the event included the importance of empowering the next generation of women leaders in climate change issues and women’s leadership in building inclusive societies.

One topic that resonated with the Mexican women present in this forum was that of resilience after a catastrophic natural event. The Secretary of Environment of Mexico City, Tanya Müller García, highlighted the important role played by nonmotorized, alternative means of transport in bringing help to those who need it the most.

Women4Climate was launched at the C40 Mayors Summit in 2016, aiming to inspire and empower young women, as well as raise awareness of the great impact that climate change has on women of all the world.

For me, this event was extremely inspiring. It’s invaluable to meet and hear from other women involved in climate action, reflect on experiences shared in the forum and recognize solutions. Women who are at the head of an organization and who fight against climate change, and in favor of gender equity, must stay focused and positive. For this very reason, we need to connect with and empower one another.

Green Apple Day of Service

At the Center for Green Schools at USGBC, we believe that all students should have the opportunity to attend schools that sustain the world they live in. As Earth Day approaches, we want to remind communities to look to their local schools as a space to promote a thriving, healthy planet.

Green Apple Day of Service offers a variety of project ideas for school communities to come together and reduce their impact on the environment, support health and wellness in schools and advance environmental and sustainability literacy. These projects also give students and teachers the tools they need to engage in civic participation and leave their communities—and the world—better off for those who come after them.

Here are some examples of projects that can help your school community have a lasting, positive impact on our planet.

Create or tend a school garden

  • Good for the environment: Gardens teach students about the important role of land in our lives, such as providing wildlife refuge and habitat, growing vegetables and fruit for instruction or cafeteria use and providing places to divert water from storm sewers.
  • Good for students: You can use planting a garden with students as an opportunity to teach lessons about plant cycles and the environment, as well as teamwork, responsibility and nutritional values.

Train custodians on green cleaning

  • Good for the environment: Conventional cleaning supplies have been found to pollute indoor air with toxins such as lead, asbestos, chemical fumes, pesticides, and molds. The transition to a green cleaning program can both prevent this air pollution and decrease a school’s carbon emissions footprint by using energy-efficient cleaning equipment.
  • Good for students: This project is an example of intergenerational engagement in sustainability, with faculty, students and custodians alike benefiting from increased productivity in an indoor environment free from environmental pollutants and irritants. Whether it is training new custodial workers, expanding on what they already know, adopting new processes or testing new technologies, success is dependent upon custodians receiving appropriate training.

Emirates Green Building Council

The United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s strongest advocates of green schools closed out 2017 with the formal launch of the Emirates Coalition for Green Schools. In a roundtable event convened by the Emirates Green Building Council (EmiratesGBC), government representatives, academics, teachers, education and sustainability stakeholders and private sector representatives came together to discuss a national vision for healthy, high-performing schools.

As a founding member of the Global Coalition for Green Schools—which was founded by the Center for Green Schools at USGBC, in partnership with the World Green Building Council—EmiratesGBC has been leading the UAE’s green schools to work since 2013.

Research and recommendations for UAE schools

The first in a series of planned events, the November roundtable was focused on how each distinctive stakeholder group could contribute to the shared goal of greening UAE’s schools. The event culminated in the release of the State of Our Schools white paper, which outlines recommendations for transforming UAE’s schools into more sustainable learning environments. The white paper is supported by the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, Taqati, and Etihad Energy Services and was developed with the Center for Green Schools.

The roundtable encapsulated a significant challenge in the industry: A very limited number of schools currently meet the agreed-upon definition of a green school in the UAE. For instance, as noted in the white paper, a recent study found that across 16 elementary schools examined, the average total VOC, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate concentration were outside of the recommended ranges for classroom environments. Improvements to indoor air quality in UAE schools have been highlighted as a specific need to address.

Working together for a common goal

In addition, the establishment of the Emirates Coalition shows that the global movement is taking root in other countries, bringing together multidisciplinary actors to develop strategies and resources to address the most pressing issues. Collaboration across different sectors in the UAE is helping green schools and improve the sustainability literacy of local students.

The Emirates Coalition is also considering the potential of green schools more broadly. As the white paper emphasizes, greener schools would contribute to the UAE’s educational targets for 2021, as well as aid in achieving national and municipal energy, water and waste reduction targets.

For a U.S. perspective on these issues, read the Center for Green Schools’ 2016 State of Our Schools report, which analyzes the best available school district data about K–12 public school facilities funding and identifies strategies for addressing the structural deficits in our education infrastructure.

Achieving Zero Energy in Schools

The Department of Energy and a group of nonprofit organizations recently released new guidance to support school stakeholders in their pursuit of net zero energy. The Advanced Energy Design Guide for K–12 School Buildings: Achieving Zero Energy (AEDG) represents an exciting milestone in our understanding of energy efficiency, and it encourages designers and school administration officials to consider that net-zero school buildings are within their reach.

The guide was published by The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) in collaboration with USGBC, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES), with support from the Department of Energy (DOE) and analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Providing recommendations on design, construction, and management of a zero energy school, the new guide aims for 100 percent energy efficiency, building on the most recent version of the AEDG before this latest release, which aimed at an already ambitious 50 percent energy savings for K–12 school buildings.

Using up-to-date technologies and strategies, ASHRAE believes, any school can reach their net-zero energy goals. The new AEDG provides strategic recommendations for every step of the building’s design, construction, and maintenance to realize energy efficiency. Several net-zero schools already using the suggested strategies and creating a low-energy-consumption culture are featured throughout (several are also LEED-certified, such as Discovery Elementary in Arlington, Virginia). The AEDG also shares tips on creating building simulations for each climate type in North America, to provide tailored solutions for each school.

There are many incentives for schools to reach net zero energy usage: the budget benefits of lowered energy consumption increased student performance due to a healthier learning environment and accomplishment of a school’s mission to create a responsible, sustainable community. This free resource can help you reach your school’s zero energy goals.

Teach kids to pay it Forward

Good deeds have ripple effects. Give your students this experience firsthand. From simple acts done in a few minutes to in-depth lessons, you can teach how to pay kindness forward in whatever time you have available.

The rewards are mighty. These lessons create more well-rounded students with a broader perspective of the difference they can make in the world. No matter the grade or subject you teach, getting students in on the movement to pay it forward may be among the best ways you can pay it forward as a teacher. Be sure to download these FREE sustainability posters as another way to teach your students to pay it forward.

1. Compliment Cards

Download and cut out compliment cards for students to hide around the school (in library books or lockers) or around their town. On the back of the card, jot down the link with a request for recipients to print their own set of compliment cards to hide so the movement continues.


2. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Do a kind deed for Mother Earth. This free lesson gets kids focused on the waste produced at their school and developing a way to create less of it through data collection and analysis. Students then bring their findings and ideas to administrators, parents and community members and even perform in public service announcements on behalf of reducing waste at their school and elsewhere in the area. Everyone benefits from a cleaner planet.


3. Kindness Anchor Chart

Keep it super-simple and just get the idea into the air by making a class list of ways to pay it forward or what it means to be kind. Encourage students to do something kind for another person and share their experience in a writing log.


4. A Classroom Chain

Every time a student in the class does something kind for a classmate, add a paper link to the chain. By the end of the year, hopefully, the chain crisscrosses the room more than a few times to show how much your kids’ kindness grew.


5. Undercover Kindness

Take a Mission Impossible approach and assign 7 days of secret acts of kindness to your students. This underscores the anonymity of paying it forward—it’s not about the recognition you get for being kind, it’s all about making someone else feel good and hoping they pass that feeling on.


6. Foster Empathy

Teach students the significance of empathy and the role it plays in their lives with help from the free short film Wright’s Law, by Zack Conkle. Through classroom discussions and reflective writing, students explore social and emotional learning and positive role models. By the end of the lesson, students have learned the power of caring about others and the positive force they can be in the world.


7. Decorate the Hall With Kind and Encouraging Words

Pass out Post Its and Sharpies to the class and task students with writing as many kinds and encouraging notes as they can in 10 minutes, then quietly have them quietly sneak into the halls or bathrooms and hang the notes without being noticed.


8. Create a Great Public Space

Work with students to identify public spaces in the community or school and describe what makes them great (are they accessible and inviting?) or not so great (are they dirty or dimly lit?). Then find an area inside or outside the school that students can clean up, improve or adapt so that everyone can enjoy it. Get lesson plans to accompany this idea via


9. Plant Trees at School or in the Community

Tie paying it forward into science curriculum (the link below takes you to free lesson plans) by teaching about the benefits of and threats to trees, wrapping up the lesson by planting a new tree (or trees) for the school or community to enjoy.


10. Make It a School-Wide Movement

Designate a week Pay It Forward Week and kick-start it with an assembly. Show a video clip, read a book (try to Drop a Pebble) or put on a skit demonstrating how kindness spreads. Hand out lists of kind acts to complete, and request kindness recipients share their experience on the school website and pass the kindness on. You can even hang up posters to help get everyone involved. Download our free posters here. When you can get the entire school involved, it really promotes overall excitement. If you’re looking for another way to get the entire school involved, check out the project ideas at Green Apple Day of Service.


LEED Certification

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a non profit organization that certifies sustainable businesses, homes, hospitals, schools, and neighborhoods. USGBC is dedicated to expanding green building practices and education, and its LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System™.

Chemline, Inc. is a member of The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and has the potential to provide LEED points.