COMMENTARY: The Green School Makeovers

Countless Benefits for Eco-Friendly Schools

Great Seneca Creek Elementary School in Maryland is the first LEED-certified school in the state.© Eric Taylor

School indoor air quality, material sustainability and energy efficiency are all factors considered by the U.S. Green Building Council"s (USGBC’s) LEED for Schools program, in its quest to advocate the design and construction of more "green" K-12 schools. According to the USGBC, 20% of Americans study or work daily in schools across the nation, but most are energy inefficient and filled with dangerous toxins. The LEED for Schools Rating System, The Green Flag Schools Program and the Alliance to Save Energy"s Green Schools Program all share a common goal: to create healthy, ecologically friendly learning environments for students and teachers. And each of these organizations encourages students, faculty and parents to take action to get there.

Small changes that have significant impacts include switching to environmentally friendly cleaning products, or implementing a school-wide recycling program. Some schools have taken the green revolution to the next level with green rooftops, solar panels and water efficiency systems. Green building projects are often considered pricey, but a green school can save $100,000 a year in operational costs.

Not only are green schools more energy efficient and sustainable, but the building itself provides students with a unique opportunity for experiential learning. Students at green schools learn through a hands-on experience the benefits of a sustainable lifestyle. And these schools are not only improving the health of our planet, but the health of students and faculty, also.

At the sustainably built Great Seneca Creek Elementary School in Germantown, Maryland, student attendance is higher than ever before, due to fewer student illnesses. Toxins from paints, cleaning products and particle dust in many schools contribute to asthma and respiratory problems, but at schools like Great Seneca Creek, this is no longer a problem. And, with higher attendance and bright, naturally lit classrooms comes better academic performance. At Great Seneca Creek Elementary, 91% of fourth graders met or exceeded state standards in math. Today"s students are tomorrow"s world leaders. Educating children to think sustainably and responsibly will make the world a better, greener place to live.

KRISTEN O"NEILL is an editorial intern at E.

Contacts: Alliance to Save Energy; The Green Flag Program; USGBC"s Build Green Schools