USGBC Expands Green Schools Efforts
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The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has launched a new Center for Green Schools, headquartered at its offices in Washington, D.C., to further its efforts to give access to green schools to all students within a generation. Manufacturing giant United Technologies is financing the center with a multi-year, multimillion-dollar commitment.
The new center builds on USGBC’s Green Schools Campaign, launched in 2007. “We decided it was time to put a real timeline to our goals: green schools for everyone within thisgeneration,” says Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools. That ambitious timeline, she continues, means ramping up activism, education, and retrofit efforts. “The Center for Green Schools at USGBC is engaging educators in creating sustainable learning environments for their students and applying solid research to inform leadership—from school boards to college presidents—about the benefits of healthy, high-performing schools,” explains Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair of USGBC.
It also means launching significant new projects, including the creation of the Center for Green Schools Fellows, which will provide fully funded, full-time sustainability coordinators to school districts for three years starting in 2011. “A district-wide sustainability initiative isn’t going to be successful until you make ‘green’ someone’s job,” says Gutter. She hopes that the funded positions will become permanent in many places as school districts realize the value of the position and begin paying salaries themselves. The Center for Green Schools will be keeping data on the benefits of the position, which could include savings from energy improvements, increased community awareness and involvement, and better health for students and teachers.
Existing efforts will continue. “We’ve got a track record of extremely successful programs,” says Gutter of USGBC’s three-year campaign. The organization’s push for green schools over the past several years has included political efforts, curriculum development, community education, and the continued development of the LEED for Schools rating system. According to Gutter, the campaign has paid off: 80 percent of the largest school districts in the country have committed to building only green schools in the future.
USGBC has focused its work as much on existing schools as new ones, creating the Green Existing Schools Toolkit for school boards and local officials. Central to these efforts has been the Coalition for Green Schools, a group that includes members of architectural and educational industry associations. Gutter says that one of the Center’s first tasks will be to open up the Coalition to broader participation.
The Center for Green Schools is online at www.centerforgreenschools.org.
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