BlueGreen Alliance

Good Jobs, Clean Environment, Green Economy

Posts About Green Schools

Aug 14

The following blog by Sierra Club Executive Director, Michael Brune was originally posted online here.  

For the eighth year in a row, Sierra magazine has dedicated a big chunk of its September/October issue to higher education. So why is the "Cool Schools" issue such a big deal? I'll give you a hint: It's not because of the schools.

Over the last few years, I've spoken to many different audiences about how clean energy is going to change our world -- I never get tired of talking about it. And people seem to appreciate hearing the good news that we're already well on our way to a future without fossil fuels. But one particular audience always leaves me with a net surplus of energy -- and that's college students. I don't know if it's because young people have always been passionate about social issues or because our planet's future is especially important to the people who'll be spending the most time there, but young people seem to possess a singular fervor for making the world a better place.

So, although the "Cool Schools" sustainability rankings of universities around the country are interesting in and of themselves, their most important function is to foster accountability. Colleges and universities should be leading the charge on sustainability and the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. When they don't, students will be the first to speak up.

Here's how the Sierra Club is going to help them do that. Tomorrow, the Sierra Student Coalition will launch a new Campuses for Clean Energy campaign. Its goal is to build on the growing student-led movement around the country calling on school administrations to demand enough clean energy from their utility providers to power campuses with 100 percent renewable energy. Universities are often some of the biggest energy users, which means they're well positioned to put significant pressure on utility providers.

Universities can apply pressure in other ways, too, such as divesting from fossil-fuel companies.Sierra's "Cool Schools" issue examines a partial but significant victory along those lines: Stanford University's decision to divest from coal-mining stocks. The U.S. currently has more than 400 student-led campaigns to persuade institutional investors to divest from fossil-fuel stocks.

In addition to committing to renewable energy and divesting from dirty fuels, colleges and universities can use their influence to advocate for statewide policies that will bring more clean energy online. Given the current inertia in Washington, D.C., such campaigns will be crucial for years to come.

Regardless of how "cool" they may be, though, colleges and universities are still institutions, and institutions tend to accumulate quite a bit of inertia of their own. You can't say the same, thank goodness, for their students. The issue may be called "Cool Schools," but really it's awesome students whom we're counting on.

Posted In: Green Schools, Sierra Club

The following blog is by Will Adams, legislative intern for the BlueGreen Alliance. 

Earlier this month, hundreds of people around the country participated in the 12th annual National Healthy Schools Day to raise awareness about the need for clean and healthy learning environments for our children. The resounding “call to action” that linked participants together was support for Indoor Air and Environmental Quality programs that could be implemented in schools across the nation. This effort comes in the face of a growing trend we can't ignore: asthma and other respiratory conditions are some of the leading causes of missed school days for America's children, and these illnesses are only being made worse by deteriorating air quality due to climate change. 

Kids in a classroom with a teacher

This year, in 40 Healthy Schools Day events all over the country, school officials, teachers, students, facilities staff, communities and NGOs were encouraged to bring their voices together to raise awareness about the growing issue of our nation’s failing school infrastructure and its effects on children and school personnel. 

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, American infrastructure received an overall “D+” in 2013 and an even lower “D” specifically for schools. As our school facilities continue to age and fall further into disrepair, we will be faced with ever-increasing health and safety risks for the 20 percent of Americans who spend their days in a school facility.     

Teacher in a classroom

These dangers are amplified when looking at how some of our schools stood up against recent natural disasters. We’ve already seen increased reports of asthma and other respiratory illnesses in children with preexisting conditions who occupied buildings damaged by Hurricanes Katrina, Irene and Superstorm Sandy, for example. 

Nationally, asthma accounts for approximately 14 million missed schools days a year, and this number will likely only increase if no action is taken. Now is the time to ensure the wellbeing of our students and faculty to protect them against the dangerous and potentially life-long effects of climate change. One of the biggest threats to our children’s education is absenteeism from school. 

Nationally, asthma accounts for approximately 14 million missed schools days a year.


Additionally, the BlueGreen Alliance has added its voice to the call for safe and healthy learning spaces for all children in America. Read our Repair America’s Schools statement, which highlights the vital role schools play as components of our everyday infrastructure. This effort is part of the broader Repair America campaign that is aimed at fixing America’s failing infrastructure and better preparing our communities for the effects of climate change. A solid infrastructure is at the root of any healthy and productive environment—especially the learning environment. 

Posted In: Green Schools

The following blog is by David Foster, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance.                                                                                  

During the State of the Union speech, President Obama said, “Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation must be to restore that promise.” If our collective hope is for prosperity, one of the ways we can get there is by restoring the strength of the systems we rely on to get us back and forth to work, supply our power, keep us safe from floods when storms rage, and make sure we can communicate with each other. To put prosperity within our reach we need a strong infrastructure to build upon. 

It all boils down to something the president said in the State of the Union “…in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure.” 

Beneath sneaker soles and car treads, under the sidewalks and roads we travel everyday, beneath manhole covers, overhead on a vast network of wires, and even under the kitchen sink, a vital network of systems maintains our quality of life. If we take clean drinking water, electric power at the flip of a switch, or heat in the winter for granted we’ll soon be left without them. 

Beyond that, infrastructure investments and economic growth are one in the same. According to Steven Landau, a researcher in Boston at the Economic Development Research Group, weak transportation infrastructure alone will shave 0.2 percentage points off economic growth this year. On the other hand the return on investment can’t be beat: every $1 billion spent creates around 18,000 jobs. These aren’t just any jobs; in many places they’re considered the best job in town. 

And, let’s be clear. Investing in our transportation infrastructure doesn’t just mean roads and bridges, it also means investments in transit. One example is John Desm, who works at New Flyer in St. Cloud, Minnesota—a regional center. New Flyer is the leading manufacturer of heavy-duty buses in the U.S. and Canada. For 11 years, John has worked as an assembly technician. He inspects the buses that are all built to order and makes sure they meet customer standards before leaving the facility. New Flyer buses are made and assembled in America and take millions of people to home, work and school in every major American city everyday including New York City, Washington, DC, Miami, FL and Atlanta, GA. Next up is the city of Los Angeles, who ordered up to 900 buses from the company to update their fleet. That order alone is expected to create up to 150 jobs at John’s facility in St. Cloud. 

Let’s face it. Economic growth will go even further if we use American-made materials and manufacture our infrastructure components here at home. Economic studies show a total of 77,000 additional jobs could be created in manufacturing, based on an investment of $148 billion a year (including $93 billion of public investment). Smart policies like “Buy America” are already used by the U.S. Department of Transportation and they drive growth in jobs here in the United States by ensuring we’re not passing up American companies to buy from companies overseas. Our investments in infrastructure should prioritize American-made goods and raw materials to ensure we get the most from our taxpayer dollars. 

Americans of past generations were inspired by great infrastructure projects that opened up commerce and created thousands of jobs like the Interstate Highway system, Transcontinental Railroad and Erie and Panama canals.  But let’s make sure that America’s best infrastructure projects are in front of us, and not behind us. We know the state of our infrastructure needs some work—our ”D+” rating from the American Society of Civil Engineers isn’t and never will be good enough. Every now and then, it helps to be reminded of the values we share and the goals we’re all working for as the president did in the State of the Union.


Let’s make 2014 a year of action. In a surprising bi-partisan move five Republican and five Democratic Senators have sponsored an infrastructure bank bill. And in the U.S. House Representative DeLauro and nearly 90 other members have introduced the National Infrastructure Development Bank Act.  Let the hard work—and big rewards—of implementing this vision begin.




Posted In: Clean Energy, Climate Change, Energy Efficiency, Green Schools, Infrastructure

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Similarly, investing in our schools yields dividends far beyond just the students who attend the school and the teachers and employees who work there. Making sure our educational institutions measure up to the kind of quality environment and education we want to provide for our children is a priority, and that means making the investments that will work towards making every school a green school. 

The average public school building in the United States is over 40 years old, and many are much older. More than 15,000 of them have air that was deemed unsafe to breathe, leading to chronic conditions such as asthma and causing students to miss days in class. 

There are many resources out there to help parents, teachers, administrators and communities to make upgrades and repairs that will improve learning, create local jobs and create tangible examples of how a cleaner economy will work for us. 

Check out these great resources below to see how you can start making green schools work for your community: 

Green Ribbon Schools
U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools recognition award honors schools and districts that are exemplary in reducing environmental impact and costs; improving the health and wellness of students and staff; and providing effective environmental and sustainability education, which incorporates science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), civic skills and green career pathways.  

Learn more about the program and take advantage of the wealth of resources

Center for Green Schools
U.S. Green Building Council

The Center for Green Schools works directly with teachers, students, administrators, elected officials and communities to create programs, resources and partnerships that transform all schools into healthy learning environments. 

Browse the website for useful resources such as the 2013 State of Our Schools Report or the Green Schools Investment Guide

Green Apple Day of Service
The Center for Green Schools, U.S. Green Building Council

The Green Apple Day of Service, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, gives parents, teachers, students, companies and local organizations the opportunity to transform all schools into healthy, safe and productive learning environments through local service projects. 

Check out project ideas, read last year's highlights and register your 2013 project today! 

Eco-Schools USA
National Wildlife Federation

Started in 1994 by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) with support by the European Commission, Eco-Schools is now an internationally acclaimed program that provides a framework to help educators integrate sustainable principles throughout their schools and curriculum. 

Get started on the Seven Steps program today! 

Building Minds, Minding Buildings
American Federation of Teachers

Launched in 2006, AFT’s “Building Minds, Minding Buildings” initiative recognizes that the school environment cannot be separated from the academic agenda, and high standards must be reflected not only in high quality teaching and a challenging curriculum, but also in the planning, design, construction, maintenance and operation of our nation’s schools. 

Learn more about this effort on their website

Posted In: Green Schools, American Federation of Teachers

Parents everywhere are getting ready to send their kids back to school. Even if you don’t have school age children, schools are important to you and your community — including being the place people go when disaster strikes. When we talk about addressing climate change and repairing our broken infrastructure, we ought to be focusing on making our schools safer, healthier and more efficient. 

A national survey of school nurses found over 40 percent of those polled knew children and staff adversely impacted by avoidable indoor pollutants. Greener schools are healthier schools. And, modernizing schools can save big money. The U.S. Green Building Council reports that modern, green schools can save $100,000 per year on operating costs — enough to hire at least one new teacher, buy 200 new computers, or purchase 5,000 textbooks. 

Fixing our schools is part of the BlueGreen Alliance’s Repair America campaign — our effort to prepare the systems we rely on every day for water, energy, communications, and to move people and goods around our country. Modernizing our schools to be healthier, safer and more efficient will put people back to work and ensure America’s students have quality learning environments. 

Help us find the state of schools all around the country by taking the poll today.


Posted In: Green Schools

The following post is from Ashley Haugo, Policy Advocate for the BlueGreen Alliance.

We talk a lot about jobs. And the environment. And creating a healthy, livable future for our children and grandchildren. But why don’t we talk more about one piece of infrastructure that is key to making so much of this a reality? Our public schools. 

Just like the transportation, communications, energy and water systems we rely on every day to function and thrive, schools are an integral part of our nation’s infrastructure and we must strive to make them modern, efficient, healthy and safe places to learn, work and play. 

That’s the message — in conjunction with the BlueGreen Alliance’s  Repair America campaign — I took to the American Federation of Teacher’s (AFT) biannual TEACH conference this week. Among the thousands of educators, school employees, leaders and activists, I sat down with a handful of teachers from across the country who work on sustainability issues to talk about how schools can and should be a central part of the national dialogue on revitalizing America. 

At the heart of many communities, schools serve as a place of learning for our youth as well as a gathering ground for friends, neighbors and community members. Unfortunately though, like many other parts of our nation’s infrastructure, public schools are sorely neglected, receiving a “D” rating from the American Society of Civil Engineers this year. This disrepair is taking a toll on the health and safety of all who pass through those school doors, and it is leaving these facilities even more vulnerable to the extreme weather events we are experiencing with climate change. 

We need to fix this — and we can. By coming together to advance our joint priorities of health, education, jobs, environment, and economy, we can make our communities stronger and more resilient to these crises. The theme of this year’s TEACH conference was “Reclaiming the Promise: Uniting for Public Schools,” and the energy and desire of all in attendance to achieve this goal was contagious (if you don’t believe me, watch the last 7 minutes of this video). 

These are hard-working people who understand that innovative — and sometimes even unlikely — partnerships are the key to realizing significant change. From ailing (and failing) schools to a languishing economy to a dangerously warming planet, we can solve big problems with big partnerships. By working together, we can build a strong foundation for future generations of Americans to build upon — great schools, a prosperous economy for all, and a clean environment — while tackling the threat of climate change. 

Join the BlueGreen Alliance and AFT — along with other partners and allies — in the call for greener, cleaner, safer schools all across the nation. Read our statement on repairing America’s schools and sign up to get involved. 

Posted In: Infrastructure, Climate Change, Green Schools, American Federation of Teachers

The following blog, by Jackie Ostfeld (Outdoors Policy Manager for the Sierra Club) is cross-posted from the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference blog. Spots are still available, so reserve your seat at this exciting conference today.

Think fast — which industry provides more jobs for America: the outdoor recreation economy or the oil and gas sector? Answer: the outdoor recreation economy, and by a huge margin.

An oft-overlooked economic driver, protecting and connecting people with the great outdoors supports 6.1 million jobs right here in America, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. In fact, in 2011 our National Parks alone generated $30.1 billion in economic activity, contributing 252,000 jobs to the American workforce. Outdoor recreation bankrolls more jobs than a host of economic behemoths like oil and gas (2.1 million jobs), information (2.5 million jobs), transportation and warehousing (4.3 million jobs) and construction (5.5 million jobs). Supporting these outdoor recreation jobs (not to mention the additional $80 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue that they generate) is consumer spending to the tune of $646 billion each year.

Unfortunately, we may not be adequately preparing the next generation of job seekers to participate in the outdoor economy, which has seen steady five percent growth since 2005. Today’s children are spending less time exploring and enjoying the great outdoors than their parents did just a generation ago. Young people are using most of their free time on increasingly sedentary and indoor activities. For instance, youth spend more than seven hours a day on electronic media. And it’s not their fault, they have nowhere to go. One in five kids cannot even access close-to-home outdoor spaces because they do not have safe parks or playgrounds nearby.

We need to do more to ensure that we are teaching relevant skills to today’s young people so that they may contribute to the conservation and recreation economy, where they can earn a living in protecting and connecting people with America’s great outdoors. Our work starts by making sure all people, beginning with little kids, have every opportunity to explore and enjoy the natural world where they can develop an appreciation for the great outdoors. Then we need to make sure that young people have the appropriate skill sets to protect and restore our public lands — the places on which a robust outdoor recreation economy depends.

The “Green Jobs in the Great Outdoors” workshop at the Good Jobs Green Jobs National Conference will bring together experts to discuss the challenges and opportunities for ensuring we have a workforce well-equipped to take on green careers in recreation and conservation. For example, you’ll hear about Sierra Club’s Outdoors program which is both connecting people (young and old) with the great outdoors and training the next generation of outdoor leaders. You’ll hear about conservation and restoration skills training programs provided by the Student Conservation Association and the various programs and initiatives housed with our federal land management agencies to prepare current and future generations for careers protecting and connecting America with the natural world.

This year’s conference theme is Let’s Get to Work: Climate Change, Infrastructure and Innovation. Protecting our public lands for the public benefit allows us to grow an economy that greens our planet and our pockets. Outdoor recreation supports three times more American jobs than does the oil and gas industry, so let’s grow our economy by keeping the oil and gas in the ground and protecting the lands on which the outdoor recreation economy and 6.1 million Americans’ jobs depend.

Posted In: Work, Environment and Public Health, Climate Change, Green Schools, Sierra Club

This blog is by Simeon Grant, Executive Director of Green Technical Education & EmploymentIt is cross-posted from the 2013 Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference blog. The conference will be happening April 16-18 in Washington, D.C. Reserve your spot today!

California recently held its first cap-and-trade auction in its attempt to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted by major corporations. The initial auction raised $55.8 million. If this process is successful, California hopes to raise more than $200 million annually.

The state Air Resources Board and the legislature are currently determining where this revenue will go. While many of the stakeholders are haggling over which projects should be funded to reduce GHGs, it seems our youth are conspicuously absent from these conversations, especially youth from communities of color.

Without a doubt, any environmentally-friendly projects that spring from this new system in California, and all others throughout this nation, should include youth with specified training and environmental design, with an emphasis on career opportunities.

The legislature continues to debate where the funding should go, but it seems to prohibit technical training. California should nurture its future by investing on the people who will be forced to implement these burgeoning environmental policies — our children.

We’re Conveners of the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference, April 16-18 in Washington, D.C., because we believe that building a dialogue about climate change, how we can address it, and how we train youth and other workers to be part of this new, clean economy is vital to the future of our country. 

Posted In: California, Green Schools

If you haven’t walked into a school lately and seen it for yourself, the schools in your community are likely in a state of disrepair. A new report out today by the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) provides a revealing look at the current state of our schools and highlights the critical need to modernize school facilities to meet current health, safety and educational standards. The first “State of our Schools” report, finds that schools are currently facing a $271 billion deferred maintenance bill just to bring the buildings up to working order – approximately $5,450 per student. Our country’s future competitiveness relies on the success of its students. If they fail, we all do.

Aging facilities are a big concern, but decades of deferred maintenance and patch up repairs have also contributed to this decline. Poor air quality, extreme classroom temperatures, bad lighting and more are all things students are having to put up with and are barriers to learning. 

The report’s findings are a poor reflection of education as a high priority. On average, the date of construction for our schools is 1959. A 1995 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report indicated that 15,000 U.S. schools were circulating air that at the time was deemed unfit to breathe. The last comprehensive study of our schools was conducted 18 years ago. 

“…In a country where public education is meant to serve as the “great equalizer” for all of its children, we are still struggling to provide equal opportunity when it comes to the upkeep, maintenance and modernization of our schools and classrooms,” President Bill Clinton said in the report. 

Beyond providing an education, schools are the anchors of our communities. They affect public health, home prices, a community’s ability to attract new residents and economic viability. Additionally, if we’re to adequately prepare the next generation to meet the challenges of climate change, we must start in our schools. Today’s students must learn environmental literacy and occupational skills to navigate a carbon-constrained world. They will require learning environments that are safe and healthy and that model the green future that we must rely on them to build.

The report makes key recommendations that put us on track to begin to remedy deteriorating schools, including:

  • Expand data collection on the building age, size and site size.
  • Improve fiscal reporting and fiscal and maintenance procedures.
  • Improve collection of capital outlay data.
  • Provide financial and technical assistance from the Department of Education.
  • Mandate a facility condition survey take place by GAO every 10 years.

We can’t say that we value education above all else and send our children to schools that are falling apart every day. We must invest in modernizing and repairing our schools, and meeting other recommendations in this report to create a better learning environment and remove barriers to learning. Improvements will also create jobs in our local communities and restore pride in our educational system. 

Posted In: Green Schools

Officials at the Green Bay School Districts started thinking about the District's energy use in 2002. Since then, they have done a series of energy audits and made a number of energy efficiency improvements have helped the District save, an estimated, 46.5 million-kilowatt hours of energy, 5 million-therms of gas, 163 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and $9.7 million.

These improvements — which are being done by a “green team” of local contractors that includes several members of SMART Local 18, IBEW Local 158 and UA Local 400 — allow the District to better use and monitor its energy use. Some of the projects include:

  • The installation of Direct Digital Controls (DDC) systems at 37 of the District’s schools allowing the District to better regulate and monitor each building’s energy use;
  • The replacement of outdoor air control dampers in order to better control the air entering and leaving the buildings;
  • The use of a Peak Demand Limiting system that encourages the schools to pre-cool their buildings and limit energy use during high-demand times;
  • The development of new HVAC control sequences that optimize energy savings; and
  • The installation of pass-through lighting in the middle and high schools that dim the lights when the hallways are not in use.

Not only do these projects help the District to cut the size of its energy bills, they create a better learning for the students along with new educational opportunities. Several of the schools have incorporated the ideas of energy efficiency and sustainability into their curriculum — ranging from the elementary schools where students are taught about the importance of turning off the lights to the high schools where students can learn about renewable energy and energy conservation careers.

The BlueGreen Alliance recently stopped by the Green Bay School District to talk to the faculty and contractors who are working on these energy efficiency projects. From these interviews, we made a series of three interviews videos about the energy efficiency projects, how they are being incorporated into the school curriculum and the importance of having trained individuals working on the projects. These videos can be watched below or on our YouTube or Facebook pages.

Links for the individual videos are as follows:

More information about the School District's energy efficiency improvements are available at the following:

See photos from our stop on the BlueGreen Alliance's Flickr page.

Thank you to all the individuals who took time to talk to us including:
Jeff Christens, Green Bay Public Schools, Service Steamfitter, UA Local 400 Member
Luanne O’Leary, Green Bay Public Schools, Manager of Trades & Internal Service Systems
Eric Ahlgrim, Eland Electric, Journeyman Electrician, IBEW Local 158 Member
Bob Baierl, Eland Electric, Foreman, IBEW Local 158 Member
Dan Christens, Ace Electric, Master Electrician, IBEW Local 158 Member
Miles Cornell, Tweet Garot Mechanical, Pipefitter/HVAC Technician, UA Local 400 Member
Mary Hock, Tweet Garot Mechanical, Sheet Metal Technician, SMWIA/SMART Local 18 Member
Jeff Jarolimek, AutomatedLogic, Senior Project Engineer
Katie Klarkowski, Eland Electric, Apprentice Electrician, IBEW Local 158 Member
Mark Rasmussen, Automated Logic, System Specialist
Allen Rymer, Green Bay Public Schools, Electronics Technician

Posted In: Wisconsin, Energy Efficiency, Green Schools, Jobs21!, Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union , United Association
« Show Older Posts