Green Schools Progress in 2012
Since 2004, Green Schools Initiative (GSI) has pioneered the holistic approach to a "green school" that integrates green buildings, green operations, and green curricula. We specialize in training educators, administrators, and parents in how to empower students to be leaders at taking action to reduce the environmental footprint of their schools, using the school campus as a hands-on sustainability lab. In 2012, our long-time advocacy as a member of a national coalition of partners, led by Campaign for Environmental Literacy, resulted in the U.S. Department of Education launching the highly-visible Green Ribbon Schools Award Program. We also provided support to the California Department of Education to be one of the key states in participating in the Green Ribbon's inaugural year. We continued our longstanding training program "7 Steps to a Green School" and expanded our Green Star Schools program with Berkeley Unified School District (see photo of BUSD's Longfellow Middle School's Green Tigers).
The core of our work is to make change at the district and school level, helping train and support dedicated teachers, parents, facility directors, and school board members how to transform the facilities management practices, institutional policies, student behaviors, and school culture towards sustainability. By working with individual schools and districts, we continue to learn what tools and practices are most successful at driving school community change. We then share these experiences and lessons with more schools and districts through our well-visited website, Facebook, e-newsletter, and conference workshops and presentations. We leverage our work with individual schools through our policy advocacy activities to accelerate the reach and pace of change at more schools.
In 2012, we received a grant to replicate our successful Green Star Schools pilot project in eight schools in Berkeley Unified School District, with an emphasis on waste reduction. Green Teams of parents, teachers, students and administrative staff have been launched at all 8 schools, and teams have started our "7 Steps" approach doing waste audits and creating action plans. We provided trainings to the Green Teams and a district-wide symposium on sustainability for all of BUSD's custodians. Our efforts will result in BUSD saving thousands on waste hauling fees and students having the opportunity to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions by thousands of pounds. Longfellow Middle School's Green Tigers are undertaking litter control on the yard and composting in the classroom. Rosa Parks created "Recycling Monsters" (see photo upper left) to help students sort properly in the lunchroom. Berkeley High students held a raffle during a Zero Waste Week (see photo right). We support Green Teams like these, which are crucial to sustaining efforts to make change in schools.
With our contest sponsors, we continued our "What's Your Green Dream School?" Contest to engage new schools in greening, including ClifBar, Klean Kanteen, New Leaf Paper/Top Flight, and others. Our 2011 winners from Fresno and San Francisco built on our trainings and in 2012 started gardens, composting, and energy conservation programs.
GSI also promotes policy reform to build on these grassroots successes. GSI played a key role in shaping the U.S. Department of Education's new Green Ribbon Schools Award program and persuading the California Department of Education to participate in its inaugural year. We did outreach, helping generate 59 California school applications to CDE (at least 4 of those 59 are schools from GSI's network), 4 of which were ultimately selected as Green Ribbon winners. GSI participated in the award ceremony in Washington DC in June 2012, where US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan honored 78 winning schools from 29 states. For the 2013 award process, 40 states are participating - from Kentucky to Hawai'I - once again including California.
The California Department of Education (CDE) appointed GSI Executive Director Deborah Moore to its Schools of the Future Task Force in 2011, where she chaired the subcommittee on High-Efficiency Sustainable Schools. One of the Task Force's recommendations was for the State of California to adopt an Environmental Literacy Plan that would ensure that all students graduate with an understanding of sustainability issues, as well as ensure that the state would be eligible for possible forthcoming federal funds for environmental education. In October 2012, CDE announced that it would launch a process to establish and adopt such a plan or "blueprint" (see photo: CDE's Craig Cheslog, GSI's Deborah Moore, and CEEF's Bill Andrews at the NAAEE conference in Oakland discussing the Blueprint for Environmental Literacy Task Force). We expect this new Environmental Literacy Task Force to deliver its "blueprint" by Fall 2013.
We continue to be pioneers and leaders in this field and presented at national and regional green school conferences, including the Green Schools National Network, the North American Association for Environmental Education, and the California Green Schools Summit. Increasingly, we are visited by students, teachers and administrators from around the world, including Norway, Japan, South Africa, and a U.S. State Department "Leading Green" group of 30 students from Southeast Asian countries.
Looking ahead to 2013
In 2013, we look forward to solidifying these gains through California's Environmental Literacy Task Force, continuing our core work with schools and districts, expanding our web-based tools and videos to reach more schools we cannot reach in person, establishing a training program for company-based employee volunteer programs to activate employees to become "sustainability champions" in their community's schools, and support schools from our network winning recognition through the Green Ribbon Schools Award Program. We also seek to partner with other green school organizations across the state to establish a California Green Schools Network to help better coordinate activities, share tools and successful strategies, and ultimately support more schools in "going green."
Green Schools Initiative is a small and effective non-profit organization that supports and trains dedicated parents, educators, and administrators to champion health, sustainability, stewardship, and environmental education in their own school communities. Through policy advocacy and coalition-building, we leverage their local efforts more broadly.