August 29th, 2008
Summer’s ending and school’s recommencing — and along with the sound of bells ringing comes the simultaneous groan of kids nationwide. But this year, more American students than ever will return from vacation to a new backdrop, a green schoolhouse.
Yep, the little red school-house of yesteryear is getting a redo, making way for a 21st-century incarnation. Of this country’s 100,000 private and public schools, approximately one a day are now registering for LEED certification, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).
These little green schoolhouses still teach the “Three R’s” (reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic), but they’ve added three more – “Reduce, Recycle, Reuse.” And they’re doing it not just through energy-efficient building principles or water-conserving whiz-bangs, but through curricula, community-outreach projects, cafeterias, landscaping, new buses and transportation policies. One school in Oregon, Clackamas High School, has a city-wide cellphone battery recycling program and last year planted its own orchard.
The greening of America’s schools is a phenomenon to behold. Less than four years ago, Arizona and Washington state were two of the first to require all new public building construction meet LEED Silver requirements. Now dozens of states have green ground rules for schools. New York prohibits the use of non-green cleaners, while its neighbor New Jersey has mandated that all new schools be built to LEED specs. The 58 member schools of the Kentucky Green and Healthy Schools Program marked the project’s first anniversary this year (Kentucky made national news when it banned the sale of non-cafeteria foods on campus a couple of years ago).