HSC Helps Kick Off Green Schools Coalition

September 23, 2009

By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director

Coalition

On September 8, I attended the inaugural meeting for the U.S. Green Building Council's
Green Schools Coalition. I'll give three reasons why it was a great
meeting:

  1. The participants were great;
  2. The main speaker was great;
  3. The office building was the coolest build-out I've ever been in.

1) The Participants

The
Green Schools Coalition is an early effort to bring together education
advocates around issues of greening our schools. It brought together
leaders from groups representing school  administrators, unions, health
advocates and environmentalists. It was such a diverse group — and a
group that can really make a statement. And even more exciting is that
the individuals there were committed to moving a national agenda
forward for healthier, more sustainable schools throughout the US.

2) The Speaker

Under
Secretary of Education, Martha Kanter, spoke to introduce the group,
and it seems to me that she said all the right things for school health. She spoke of the
need for proper nutrition, healthy indoor environments and, of course,
sustainable construction and maintenance.

But my favorite quote of
hers was that we need to move “beyond the balance sheet of energy
savings” in building green schools. We need to remember that building
schools shouldn't only be measured by years for a payback in energy
savings. Some things don't have measurable monetary benefits.
Schools need to inspire creativity, facilitate learning and support
health. None of which has a specific dollar amount attached to it, but
all of which could spell financial disaster if we fail. 

It's nice to hear when our leaders seem to get it.

3) The Space

You'd
expect the USGBC to have the mack-daddy green space — and they didn't
disappoint in their newly renovated office space. Occupancy sensors for
individual cubicles, eco zones with curtains of air to reduce the need for
heating and cooling, reclaimed wood paneling, use of colors to
reflect light, waterless urinals… It was a building geek's dream to
see all of this technology. But one of the things that struck me is
that the use of the term “green” is expanding to mean ergonomics, mood,
health, healthy food prep, comfort and building community — all things that we hope to see in schools. Maybe we all
need to expand the definition of “green,” or we need to come up with a
new word that is more encompassing. Either way, the space was awesome.

So
thank you to the USGBC for starting the Green Schools Coalition. We're
proud to be members and excited to get to work!