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Posts Tagged ‘Green Schools’

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.

LEED-certified schools hits 2,000

Take a look at the trends tallied by the Center for Green Schools upon the 2,000th LEED certification of a school.
For years, the Center for Green Schools at USGBC has kept a close eye on the way that K–12 schools interact with or purchase the resources and products that USGBC provides. It’s one way to tell how well the benefits of green building are reaching schools and school districts, and it also tells USGBC when we need to do some research to improve the solutions we’re offering.

Just recently, we reached a major milestone: 2,000 LEED-certified K–12 schools.

True to our LEED standards, our 2,000th school, the Rio Grande High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, operates with high levels of sustainability. With on-site renewable energy, the use of low-emitting materials and reduction in water use, among other features, the Rio Grande High School earned LEED Gold certification.

With thousands of schools becoming certified, there’s a wealth of sustainability trends to observe. Here are some we’ve been noting:

Public schools are leading. These 2,000 projects represent well over $30 billion in investment. They also cover a total of 160 million square feet of education space, approximately 2 percent of the total square footage of all U.S. public schools. Public schools make up the vast majority of LEED certification commitments, driven by either state laws or by the desire of school districts to show good stewardship of tax dollars.
Large districts make large-scale commitments. Typically, when we take a look at LEED-certified projects by large/medium public school district size, we see large districts with big capital campaigns at the top. Over the last couple of years, Houston Independent School District and Washington, D.C., Public Schools have risen in numbers quickly as they dive fully into their bond projects. They’ve overtaken Albuquerque Public Schools, whose recent capital campaign is winding down, and Chicago Public Schools.

Looking at the numbers another way, within the large/medium public school district group, we see that Cincinnati Public Schools and South-Western City Schools, both in Ohio, have huge percentages of schools that have achieved certification. In both cases, nearly 40 percent of all schools in the district are certified, constituting a major commitment and commendable effort.
Some states distribute funding to assist smaller districts. The state-level data tells another angle of the national story because it highlights the state of Ohio’s commitment to LEED certification for all of its schools. Just over 300 schools have been certified in Ohio, more than double the number certified in the second-place state, California. The certified schools in Ohio are distributed around the state, reflective of the state’s commitment to assist smaller, less-wealthy school districts with needed capital construction funds.
The places using LEED are geographically diverse. The list of top states for LEED-certified schools emphasizes the broad appeal of green schools and green building practices. The top six states for LEED in schools are Ohio, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Maryland and Florida. Schools are seeing the value of the third-party verification that LEED provides—whether rural, urban, suburban on the coast or inland.

Connect the Dots Green Schools Challenge

The K–12 school is a great example of how the Connect the Dots program inspires achievements in sustainability.

USGBC’s Connect the Dots program challenges K–12 schools across the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia regions to develop and implement the most creative, effective, no- or low-cost sustainable practices for their schools. Participating schools target projects that aim to lower operating maintenance costs, improve indoor air quality, conserve natural resources and more.

Schools are matched with volunteer mentors from the building and design industry to guide project implementation and development. Projects are also registered as part of USGBC’s annual Green Apple Day of Service campaign to contribute to the global impact of increasing sustainability in schools.

Registration for both schools and volunteer mentors for the 2017–2018 program is open through October 13.

Each spring, the schools that most effectively meet this challenge are recognized for their achievements at a ceremony around the time of Earth Day. In 2016, the Agnor-Hurt Elementary School in Charlottesville, Virginia, was given the Honor Award for their comprehensive approach to promoting sustainability. The school constructed its own learning gardens, using the vegetables and herbs in cooking classes to promote healthy eating. To engage the whole community in this effort, the school organized a Healthy Living Night for students and parents.

The Albermarle County School District in which Agnor-Hurt Elementary is located has also been a past recipient of USGBC’s School District Scholarship program and is currently part of a small cohort of school districts using the Arc platform to benchmark, track and take action on sustainability metrics at each school. Energy, water, waste and other data can be collected by students through hands-on auditing activities and then incorporated into STEM curriculum for ongoing engagement and action. The data is also used by school personnel to make informed decisions about school improvements.

The 2016–2017 Connect the Dots School Champions at Agnor-Hurt Elementary School were Adam Mohr, Courtney Wood, Brittany Mullinex, Marci McKenzie, Michael Thornton and Drew Craft, and their volunteer mentor was Tish Tablan, a national organizer with Generation 180.

After participating in the program, Mohr, who was also Agnor-Hurt’s multiage team leader/teacher for grades 1–3, commented, “This was a fabulous opportunity for our school and existing garden-to-table project. It helped us reflect on what successes we have had thus far, and what we still need to improve upon moving forward. Other schools should take part in this important challenge, so we can all benefit from each other’s work and share ideas.”

State lawmakers plan legislation in support of green schools..

Legislators gathered at a green school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with the Center for Green Schools.

Early in August, the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators hosted their annual meeting in Boston, where state lawmakers discuss the most pressing issues in environmental policy and make commitments for their coming legislative sessions. Each year at the caucus meeting, the Center for Green Schools at USGBC holds a workshop to review the latest in green schools research and policy and make an action plan.

A dozen legislators from around the country joined us in a morning tour of the beautiful Martin Luther King, Jr. School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which was recently built with aspirations of net zero energy and seeks to achieve LEED Platinum. Visitors met with the architects from Perkins Eastman, the former mayor of Cambridge and city energy staff to learn about the policy landscape and motivations behind the green school. They also learned more about the school’s features—including an extensive learning garden, lesson-friendly mechanical room, and an indoor/outdoor gym.

National Caucus of Environmental Legislators tour Boston school

That afternoon, the group was joined by around 30 additional lawmakers for a workshop to review current research and recent legislation on four topics:

  • School infrastructure financing and management: The group discussed recommendations for local, state and federal action from a 60-person working group of national experts on school financing and management, including implications for state-level policy making to give school districts what they need to operate healthy and efficient buildings.
  • Energy efficiency in existing schools: A soon-to-be-released policy overview from the Center for Green Schools was reviewed. The overview covers state laws in eight states that provide funding mechanisms for energy efficiency projects in existing schools.
  • Benchmarking: The group examined current best practices for benchmarking energy, water and other sustainability metrics on the local and state level, including examples of existing state-level and local policies.
  • Green infrastructure: A preview was given to a forthcoming study that builds on the 2016 Achieving Urban Resilience, as well as policy implications for more sustainable land and infrastructure management. New research on the sustainability and health opportunities of so-called “smart surfaces” was also addressed.

Each year, the Center for Green Schools follows up with state legislators to ensure they have the resources they need to advance their priorities on green schools and green buildings. View our menu of options for state legislators, and pick out what you think is most important to take to your elected officials.

After many years of working with legislators, we have learned that your voice, as a constituent, is the one they value most.

U.S. Department of Education announces 2017 Green Ribbon Schools honorees

Published on 4 May 2017 Written by Anisa Heming Posted in Center for Green Schools

The recipients of the 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools share a deep commitment to sustainable practices.

The U.S. Department of Education announced the recipients of the 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS), an awards program that acknowledges a deep commitment to sustainable practices among the nation’s leading schools, districts and institutions of higher education.

A total of 63 honorees—including 45 schools, nine post-secondary institutions and nine school districts—received the prestigious award for their demonstrated leadership across three pillars: 1) reduced environmental impact and costs, 2) improved health and wellness and 3) effective environmental and sustainability education. Now in its sixth year, the program has honored 340 schools, 56 districts and 34 postsecondary institutions.

As part of this significant recognition program within the green schools movement, recipients of this year’s award model best practices for educating and inspiring the next generation of 21st century citizens. Showing the breadth of the green schools movement, 44 percent of this year’s awardees serve under-resourced communities, and 14 percent are located in rural areas. Charter, non-public and magnet schools are included, as well as career, technical and community colleges.

Each participating state in this voluntary program is allowed to nominate up to four schools and one district that demonstrate a comprehensive approach to sustainability. This year’s pool of candidates were nominated and reviewed by 29 state education authority implementation teams, including 28 states and the Department of Defense Education Activity.

The green schools movement has grown broader and deeper since 2011, when key advocates, including USGBC’s Center for Green Schools, steered some 80 national and state-based nonprofits to request that the U.S. Department of Education honor schools for their sustainability efforts and contributions. During the development of ED-GRS, USGBC advocated to ensure that the criteria provided an accessible pathway for all schools to strive toward the three pillars, so that large urban schools, small rural schools and every school population in between could have a fair chance at recognition.

Honorees both past and present prove that any school, district or post-secondary institution can take steps to improve the sustainability, health and safety of school facilities; ensure nutrition and fitness practices for a lifetime of wellness and productivity; and engage students in authentic, real-world learning that prepares them to lead a sustainable future.

USGBC commends the winning schools for their success, as well as the U.S. Department of Education for its innovative program that, without spending any new taxpayer money, has continued to provide a crucial focal point in the movement for healthy, high-performing schools.


Green Schools Conference and Expo Comes to Atlanta

Published on 2 Mar 2017 Written by Rachel Gilbert Posted in Media

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Dr. Antwi Akom and Dr. Elizabeth Kiss to speak at conference that brings together sustainability advocates, education leaders, parents to transform nation’s schools

Washington, D.C.—(March 1, 2017)—The Green Schools Conference and Expo (GSCE), presented by the Center for Green Schools at USGBC, and produced in partnership with the Green Schools National Network, is coming to Atlanta, Georgia, March 21–22, 2017, at the Westin Peachtree Plaza, located at 210 Peachtree Street NW.

The conference, designed to bring together teachers, parents, students, school and district staff, educational leaders, building industry professionals and nonprofit partners, is the premier education and engagement opportunity for those who are passionate about the future of green schools throughout the country and around the world. During the two-day conference, advocates will come together to make measurable and lasting progress toward the three pillars of green schools: environmental impact, health impact and environmental and sustainability literacy.

Making progress in sustainability (USGBC Greater Virginia)

Published on 22 Dec 2016 Written by JOHN BEST Posted in Community

 In 2017, USGBC Greater Virginia will continue to advocate for green building and climate action.

Many green building professionals and advocates are feeling uncertainty about legislative and political accomplishments at the national level, such as the Clean Power Plan and the recently signed Paris Agreement. At USGBC Greater Virginia, we wanted to emphasize that we will continue making progress in sustainability.

Even in the face of past political roadblocks, we have always managed to make great strides in high-performance buildings and sustainable communities. Most of this progress has happened at the local level, not national, and has been led by individuals, businesses, community leaders, schools and organizations like USGBC. Furthermore, the economic arguments in favor of sustainability continue to grow stronger as technology improves and prices decrease with scale.

USGBC Greater Virginia’s commitment to resilient, safe, efficient and green communities is more determined than ever, and we know that your commitment is similarly unwavering as you work tirelessly to promote high-performing buildings and sustainable solutions in Virginia.

 Learn and educate 

Our educational initiatives are going strong this year in Virginia. Upcoming events include topics as diverse as LED lighting technology seminars, LEED v4 training, and tours of high-performance facilities. We will continue to offer education luncheons and seminars to keep you up to speed on new technologies and sustainable initiatives.

 Be an advocate 

USGBC Greater Virginia is actively advocating for programs and legislation that promote green building in the Commonwealth.  We’ll keep you posted on all opportunities to influence local leaders in a smart direction.

 Serve your communities 

USGBC offers lots of ways to directly serve your community. For instance, our Connect the Dots Green Schools Challenge calls on schools across Virginia to develop and implement the most creative, effective, no- or low-cost sustainable practices for their schools and communities. Participation this year is already up significantly from 2015.

 Be collaborative

We recognize that we cannot make real environmental impact alone, and we partner with many organizations. For example, our ADVANCE initiative in Southwest Virginia allows us to partner with local small businesses to identify energy-saving opportunities that also benefit their bottom line. Our community has long been a champion for energy efficiency, climate action and environmental protection throughout the built environment. In 2017, we will be exploring new partnerships and strategies to promote sustainability in our region and continue to further healthy building for all of our Virginia residents.

Written by JOHN BEST

Albemarle County Public Schools awarded a School District Scholarship (USGBC Greater Virginia)

Albemarle County Public Schools awarded a School District Scholarship (USGBC Greater Virginia)

Published on 11 Oct 2016 Written by Carrie Webster Posted in Center for Green Schools

Albemarle County Public Schools has received a School District Scholarship from the Center for Green Schools.

Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) has recently been awarded a School District Scholarship from the Center for Green Schools™ at USGBC®. The scholarship includes travel and attendance for school representatives to the Greenbuild Conference and Expo in 2016 and the Green Schools Conference in 2017. It also includes access to exclusive USGBC training opportunities and resources, as well as financial assistance with a high-impact sustainability project of the district’s choice.

ACPS was awarded the scholarship based on the impressive list of environmental initiatives that the school system has already implemented over the past 10 years, championed by Lindsay Snoddy, the ACPS Assistant Director of Environmental, Health, and Safety.

Energy and sustainability successes at ACPS have included

  • Earning the Energy Star label for 21 schools.
  • Conducting plumbing fixture audits in partnership with University of Virginia to identify and implement water-saving upgrades.
  • District-wide green cleaning and integrated pest management policies.
  • Composting programs in many schools.
  • Rigorous recycling programs that go beyond standard curbside items to encompass such items as electronic waste, batteries, fluorescent bulbs and construction and demolition debris.

In 2012, a Renewable Energy Resource Center was constructed at Henley Middle School with grant funds. The center includes a solar array, a wind turbine and a solar thermal system.

In addition, ACPS recently became the first school system in Virginia to install 1 megawatt of solar photovoltaic cells under the solar power purchase agreement in Dominion Power’s territory. Projects still in the works include upgrading all classroom lighting to LEDs to save energy and improve the learning environment.

Written by Carrie Webster

Growing minds with Green Apple Day of Service 2016

Published on 8 Aug 2016 Written by Amanda Sawit Posted in Center for Green Schools

 Green Apple Day of Service is a chance to teach sustainability in a fun way.

On Green Apple Day of Service, you can make an impact right inside the classroom. Advancing a culture of sustainability within schools means ensuring that students of all ages can acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors that prepare them to lead and succeed in green 21st century careers.

Join us for Green Apple Day of Service 2016 and together, we’ll plant the seeds of wonder, understanding and stewardship for a more sustainable future. Here are some ideas and resources to get you started! 

Learning Lab

USGBC’s Learning Lab has fantastic online resources to help K–12 educators and their students easily implement Green Apple projects. More than 300 project-based lessons in English and Spanish just sign up for your account, and enjoy the easy-to-follow, sustainability-infused curriculum on Learning Lab.

Fun Food Connections

You can plant a school vegetable garden to help students understand where food comes from, or engage students in preparing fresh meals or snacks that they can enjoy on the spot. Food is a great way to connect with a wide audience and talk about sustainability issues spanning topics such as social justice, economics, agriculture, operations and health. Remember to track your efforts in increased servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains eaten by students or in decreased grams of sugars served or consumed on campus.

Dynamic Visuals

Signs and murals allow a school to show its commitment to healthy and sustainable learning environments. Great signage can teach students and the rest of the community about the green (or could-be-greener) features of classrooms, bathrooms, cafeterias and hallways. A mural is a large-scale way to remind visitors and the school community about the school’s values. Students can lend their creativity to the effort, and it’s a great way to bring the arts into your sustainability efforts.

And don’t forget to measure your impact! Keep track of the number of minutes allocated to environmental and sustainability concepts in class, or engage students through written work, art projects or even a fun post-event survey.


Green Apple Day of Service 2016

Published on 11 Jul 2016Written by Amanda Sawit Posted in Center for Green Schools

This year’s Green Apple Day is Sept. 24. Help us make an impact on schools worldwide!

Join us on Sept. 24 for the 2016 Green Apple Day of Service, and help make an impact on schools worldwide.

All over the world, communities are coming together to improve local schools, making an impact on the environment, supporting health and wellness and advancing environmental and sustainability literacy. School may have just gotten out for the summer, but the time is right to start a Green Apple Day event near you.

Getting involved is easy.

Visit for ideas and resources, and sign up to host an event in your community. 

We make a difference together.

Since 2012, an astounding 12,660 projects have taken place under the Green Apple Day of Service banner. More than 750,000 volunteers have affected the learning environments of 7 million students in all 50 U.S. states, as well as 73 countries.

Have a story about your involvement? We want to hear it!

This year, we’re keeping the momentum going strong and spotlighting the amazing commitments made between now and Sept. 24. Follow the Center for Green Schools on FacebookTwitter and Instagramto share your stories, or email the Center. We’ll be sharing stories and photos in the weeks to come.

We know that the school environment has a direct impact on students, teachers and staff, but unfortunately, many schools today face obstacles to promoting health and wellness in their facilities. According to the recent State of Our Schools: America’s K–12 Facilities report, the U.S. faces a projected annual shortfall of $46 billion in school funding to adequately maintain or build new schools that are healthy and efficient. The Green Apple Day of Service is your opportunity to directly address these challenges.

Together, we can transform our schools into healthy, vibrant places to learn, work and play while teaching valuable lessons about the environment and cultivating the world’s next generation of sustainability leaders.

Amanda Sawit

Content Specialist U.S. Green Building Council

USGBC staff

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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.