Schools in America need help. They’re in physical disrepair, use outdated technologies that guzzle energy, and have interiors that exude harmful compounds into the same air children breath during the majority of each day. This September, the condition of schools in America were up for discussion. According to the nationwide survey, sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council and United Technologies Corp., nearly 75 percent of Americans “support federal investment in school building improvements focused on creating healthier learning environments, saving tax dollars or lowering carbon emissions” (USGBC).
In today’s political and economic landscape, where talk of federal spending leans toward jobs creation and tax cuts, it is refreshing to know that Americans see the benefits of investing in schools – and not only so their kids can enjoy a healthier learning environment. In 2008 alone, $254.6 BILLION were deferred for school maintenance. Meanwhile, green schools SAVE an average of $100,000 per year on operating costs.
For our economy, an investment in schools means an immediate surge in jobs in an industry that needs to stay competitive in the global market. Down the road, it means an invaluable return on investment – economically, socially, and environmentally – through significant energy, water, and operating cost savings; healthier, more productive students who are sick and absent less frequently; and reduced carbon emissions and waste production.
For the students, the impacts are immediate and are already shaping the way they interact with their school environment. At Learning Group Community School (LEED Platinum 2010), the “entire curriculum was developed around the LEED building and was incorporated into the daily lessons. The school’s environment-based educational curriculum follows the National Science Standards for teaching native plant identification, water usage via cisterns, dehumidification, reflective light, and the effect weather has on electricity and water use” (USGBC Profile). Using the school as a teaching tool gives teachers a way to investigate the relationship between the built environment, human ecology, and natural ecology using their surroundings.
If a green school can save $100,000 annually in operating and maintenance costs, teachers can finally be allowed the salaries, resources, and support they need to foster the next generation of teachers, architects, and engineers. Now that’s sustainable development!
– Molly Hislop, Director of GEF Programs