Government Agencies Told to Go Green. But What About Schools?

October 15, 2009

By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director

Green-Cafeteria

The Obama administration is starting to require every federal agency to measure its greenhouse-gas emissions and set targets to reduce them by 2020. According to The Washington Post, Obama explained the decision this way:

As the biggest landlord in the nation, we need to show leadership by reducing fuel use, cutting costs, and improving the operations of our agencies' fleets and buildings.

Nice step forward! My only question is — what about schools?

According to the article, the federal government has 500,000 buildings, operates 600,000 vehicles, and employs more than 1.8 million civilian workers.

My guess is that schools are not too far off in magnitude for these types of numbers. Our nation has more than 130,000 schools (not school buildings, but schools – there are actually more buildings); school buses drive more than 23 million children to and from school each year; and we know that 55 million students and nearly 5 million adults are in a school building on any given work day in America. 

So maybe we need to start looking at setting targets for schools to reduce their emissions too.

Actually, some schools are already taking steps in this direction.

Chicago Public Schools, the third largest school district in the US, has taken a great effort to implement an environmental action plan to address its greenhouse-gas emissions. The state of Illinois has begun a program to encourage environmental improvements in schools that they hope to begin using to quantify emission reductions.

But we do need something more consistent, and at a larger level. School are huge consumers, schools touch every point of our society and as I said before, where schools go, others follow.

Any other examples of schools trying to quantify (or reduce) their greenhouse-gas emissions out there?