‘Cash-strapped’ Green Schools to Breathe Fresh Air with New Federal Program

April 28, 2011 / William Thomson, Green Homes Expert

Amid belt-tightening in the budget allocated for schools all throughout the USA, the Department of Education has launched an “innovative solution” for green schools to help them cut costs while promoting environmental sustainability.

‘Cash-strapped’ Green Schools to Breathe Fresh Air with New Federal Program

The U.S. Department of Education has officially launched the Green Ribbon Schools program to acknowledge green schools that “have taken great strides in greening their curricula, buildings, school grounds and overall building operations.”

The Green Ribbon Schools program is designed to provide green schools the assistance needed to save money and prepare students for 21st Century jobs. These schools include those that exemplify USA’s sustainability drive, from graduating environmentally literate students to effectively managing their carbon footprint.

“Through the Green Ribbon Schools program, we’ll be holding up schools that are leading the way in teaching science and in ways that show students the importance of developing clean energy sources and sustainable solutions for the environment,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

The program will encourage schools to widen their approach to becoming a green school by adopting energy efficient construction methods and materials which will reduce costs on energy consumption, while using these green practices to educate students about science, technology and the environment.

“In a time when budgets are tight, the Department of Education is encouraging schools to engage in a creative win-win scenario – cutting expenses while using the school facilities as dynamic learning labs for students,” said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

According to Schweiger, the Green Ribbon Schools program supports the initiatives of the National Wildlife Federation, which already helped more than 4,000 schools go green over the last 15 years.

Based on rough estimates by the US Department of Energy, green schools are able to reduce energy consumption by as much as 25% and cut national costs on energy by more than $1 billion every year, far lower than the amount spent on energy in 2000 which amounted to $6-8 billion.

Aside from reducing energy consumption and saving money, green schools will also foster a healthy environment conducive to the learning process of the children, noted Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, U. S. Green Building Council.

The Green Ribbon program is expected to unify the states that have already established either green school programs or environmental literacy plans under a voluntary national award, much like the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design award.

The national award will adopt the criteria to be developed by the education department meant to stress innovation and new strategies in environmental curriculum development, teacher training, facilities management, operations and community engagement.

Coming up with the federal initiative for green schools, the education department has partnered with the Campaign for Environmental Literacy (CEL), and the Green Ribbon campaign’s steering committee – CEL, Earth Day Network, the National Wildlife Federation and the U.S. Green Building Council.

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