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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.

Albuquerque students’ Green Apple Day of Service booth yields hundreds of energy savings pledges

Published on 29 Oct 2015Written by Tony Sparks Posted in Center for Green Schools

Students from the Del Norte High School’s Earth Club in Albuquerque, New Mexico, participated in this year’s Green Apple Day of Service. The DNHS Earth Club, sponsored by biology teacher Jim Butscher, partnered with the state Energy Conservation & Management Division of the Minerals & Natural Resources Department at their display at the opening weekend of the 2015 New Mexico State Fair.

The students had hundreds of fair-goers sign Energy Pledges asking for a commitment to reduce their energy use, and they demonstrated an energy bicycle that produced electricity through pedaling. The bike created energy that provided electricity to light a box comparing incandescent, CFL, and LED light bulbs. This demonstrated kinetically that LED light bulbs are a good choice to reduce energy costs. 

This experience not only provided an opportunity for these students to share their knowledge of energy conservation and efficiency, but it also developed their public speaking and leadership skills while supporting the District’s Water and Energy Conservation Program. The Earth Club has been conducting a lighting audit of their school, as well as designing a butterfly garden that will be planted in the fall.

The Albuquerque Public Schools Water and Energy Conservation program is looking for schools, teachers and students to organize Energy Teams.

Tony Sparks

Staff Project Manager – Mechanical Systems APS-Facilities Design & Construction

Member employees


Starbucks takes the lead in social responsibility at home

By Judith Nemes

Starbucks is often touted as one of the more enlightened corporations in the U.S. that’s working hard at shrinking its carbon footprint and pursuing global social responsibility initiatives. Those goals are achieved through innovative green building programs, sustainable operating practices, and sourcing fair trade coffees to improve the lives of coffee growers (and their workers) around the world.

 Starbucks’ leaders recently expanded their efforts in social responsibility—only this time a lot closer to home. The Seattle-based company established a college education program in a unique partnership with Arizona State University (ASU) that encourages its own employees to finish college. The carrot for that nudge to go back to school is tuition reimbursement so individuals who start out at Starbucks can aspire to even greater opportunities and achieve improvements in their quality of life.

U.S.-based Starbucks employees who work 20 hours per week or more can sign up to earn a bachelor’s degree in one of 40 undergraduate degree disciplines offered by ASU’s prestigious online program.

Employees who are already in route to acquiring a bachelor’s degree and enroll as juniors or seniors will get full tuition reimbursement from Starbucks for every semester of fully completed courses, the company says. Freshmen and sophomores who enroll at ASU online through the program can receive partial tuition payback and need-based financial aid, according to Starbucks.

        No strings attached

Perhaps most surprisingly, Starbucks employees who graduate aren’t obligated to continue working for the company once they’ve received their bachelor’s diploma.  The motivation for initiating the College Achievement Plan, or CAP, was to encourage more individuals to finish college who couldn’t otherwise afford to do so.

      Two-tiered reimbursement, extra support

The program has two levels of reimbursement. Starbucks is offering maximum incentive to individuals who are closer to completing their degrees, but also gives partial reimbursement to freshmen and sophomores as a motivator to get on the path to higher education. Students receive a small scholarship from Starbucks when they first enroll, which never has to be repaid. Participating employees pay upfront for the rest of their tuition and other fees, but then are reimbursed by Starbucks every time they complete 21 credits (the estimated equivalent of a full semester of classes).

In addition to the 40 existing majors available at ASU online, Starbucks and the university created a new Retail Management Degree that’s geared toward employees who are interested in expanding their skill set for a retail environment and staying with the company after acquiring their degree, says Dayna Eberhardt, Starbuck’s vice president of Global Learning.

Launching the Starbucks’ CAP program has naturally boosted enrollment for ASU, but Michael M. Crow, the university’s president, says the incentive for collaborating with Starbucks was not about numbers. It was more about fulfilling the university’s mission to widen diversity among its student base and encouraging more individuals who don’t have the luxury of attending college full-time to find ways to obtain their degree, he asserts.

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.