Green Schools

Green schools are unquestionably the right decision for our children and the environment. The money saved on energy bills (the annual energy savings from a single green school is generally in the 6-digit range) can be reallocated to pay for important school initiatives, additional teachers, better computers, or thousands of textbooks. Green schools also prevent the unnecessary production of millions of tons of CO2. Buildings are the largest contributors to US CO2 production, while renovations and new school erection represent the largest construction sector in the U.S.-$80 billion in 2006-2008, about 27% of the US construction market (source: McGraw-Hill).

Given the enormous financial and environmental benefits, green schools seem an obvious choice, but red tape, laws, and up-front costs often prevent their construction. The highly localized nature of school budgets creates a bureaucratic disconnect between capital funds (used for construction) and operating funds (used for utility bills). The difference in funding sources makes it difficult for schools to realize the potential operating-cost savings of a green building investment.

To help school boards recognize the financial and environmental benefits of green building, last summer, the USGBC established the National Green Schools Advocacy Program, gathering advocates from all over the states to come together, get educated and organized and ready to drive coalitions around the country. The idea is to gather all the stakeholders in a community-in this case as represented by each chapter's geographic reach-and create a coalition that would go out and spread the word about the possibilities for green schools. Stakeholders include parents, school board members, teachers, facility people, maintenance people, and practitioners of many disciplines. The idea is to represent the concerns of a school and to ensure that those concerns be addressed authentically.

In California, we have seven advocates that work to get the word out about green schools. We are fortunate to be in a state that recognizes the benefit of healthy environments and is working to ensure that educational environments are given attention and support.

The Green Schools Advocate program is a rare opportunity to make an impact in a range of causes. Green schools provide healthier learning environments and reallocate money (previously squandered on energy-bills) to important educational initiatives. Additionally, green schools act as community exemplars-teaching tools, and levers for mainstreaming green building practices into homes and offices around the US. Most of all, green schools prevent unnecessary C02 production.

U.S. Green Building Council -
North California Chapter

560 Mission St. Suite 900
San Francisco, CA 94105
Phone: (415) 659-9404