Green Education and Sustainability in Schools Promotes Green Lifestyles, Eco-Conscious Citizens

in Energy

"Sustainable development will not just be in the classroom: it will be in its bricks and mortar and the way that the school uses and generates its own power. Our students won't just be told about sustainable development, they will see and work within it: a living, learning place in which to explore what a sustainable lifestyle means."

Years ago, the term "green school" would simply have referred to the color of the paint on the walls. But with today's increased energy costs, increased accountability and reduced operating and capital budgets, education decision-makers are "going green" to become more efficient and provide a healthier environment for improved student learning.

Schools are increasingly turning to "green" or sustainable design and its elements in the construction of new schools and the renovation of existing schools. Green design addresses improved indoor air quality, energy efficiency (reduced usage, costs and impact on the environment), and the use of natural material and resources, which results in an improved learning and teaching environment.

There are many aspects to going green including recycling, composting, making use of alternative energy sources and investing in energy-efficient appliances. Many schools are already on the way to becoming sustainable schools. In Wisconsin, Wausau West High School experienced problems with indoor air quality and high heating bills. The school implemented a new HVAC strategy allowing for 100 percent outside air ventilation and reduced energy consumption. This strategy resulted in saving more than $100,000 annually in energy and an indoor air quality improvement of more than 300 percent.

In Oregon, Dalles Middle School and Ash Creek Elementary opened in 2002, incorporating elements of sustainable design including the newest energy efficiency lighting system, T-5 fluorescents, solar tubes, other forms of daylighting, geo-exchange and heat recovery systems with energy reductions as much as 60 percent. In Colorado, Zach Elementary School in Fort Collins opened in 2002 with many sustainable design elements with energy use forecasted to be less than 50 percent of other schools in the district. Also in 2002, the first Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rated school in the nation opened outside of Statesville, N.C., Third Creek Elementary.

Following are ways to create sustainable schools and a look at some schools that are doing just that.


Daylighting is the practice of placing windows, or other transparent media, and reflective surfaces so that natural daylight provides effective internal illumination.

Within the overall architectural design of a building, particular attention is given to daylighting when the aim is to maximize visual comfort, productivity or to reduce energy use. Energy savings from daylighting are achieved in two ways - either from the reduced use of electric lighting, or from passive solar heating or cooling (source: Wikipedia).

The effect of daylighting was studied in the late 1990s to reveal its impact on student learning. A study of more than 21,000 students in California, Washington and Colorado revealed test score increases of 26 percent in reading and 20 percent in math.

Tips to Go Green

A research paper from the National Association of Independent Schools details how schools can reduce their carbon footprint.

Here are the top 10 tips:

1. Adopt an environmental mission statement for your school.

2. Buy food from local farmers and vendors.

3. Install solar panels on your campus.

4. Make people aware of your school's energy use by posting monthly usage data for public viewing (or make a real-time display).

5. Create an environmental stewardship committee on the board of trustees.

6. Start a school garden and serve food from it at school meals or functions.

7. Turn off all unnecessary electrical appliances over vacations and weekends.

8. Join an energy competition among independent schools.

9. Invite the local community to hear outside speakers present on environmental and sustainability topics.

10. Invest in a recycling program involving the entire school community.


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Jessica Springgay has 1 articles online

Jessica Springgay

Published in the Special Issue 2007 of Converge []

Converge magazine provides strategy and leadership for technology use in K-12 and higher education. Senior policy makers in education utilize Converge for articles on proven, effective educational methods and models for 21st century learning and beyond.

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Green Education and Sustainability in Schools Promotes Green Lifestyles, Eco-Conscious Citizens

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This article was published on 2010/04/04