Green schools are inarguably the right decision for our children and the environment. Though up-front costs are higher, green buildings save enough in operation and maintenance expenses to pay for their original construction in a matter of months. 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, The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has launched the "Green Schools Advocate" Program. The program will select and train national volunteers to campaign green schools to local school boards and state boards of education.
Selected advocates will attend a two-day training camp at the USGBC's headquarters in Washington, DC. Here, advocates will gain a strong understanding of green building practices, the benefits of green schools, and LEED for Schools certification. Experts not only teach advocates how to present to district governments, the local media, and other stakeholders including PTA groups, but also advise effective tactics to propel the green school decision-making process.
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.
If you think you might make a stellar "Green Schools Advocate" or want to learn more about The USGBC Green School Advocates Program, email firstname.lastname@example.org.