You are here

green schools

Oxford High School, in Oxford, Mississippi, is a small-town school with big expectations. In 2011, when the district needed to accommodate growth in its student population, administrators partnered with Johnson Controls. Three years later, they opened a high-tech, energy-efficient, state-of-the-art, secure school to more than 1,000 students.

A pilot solar panel project on the roof of Aiea High School in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Hawaii State Department of Education has embarked on a first- and largest-plan-of-its-kind nationwide to install solar panels in every school in the state. The plan will reduce the sunny state’s school energy costs from $47 million per year to zero, and generate revenue from extra energy that could go back to schools, school officials say.

On Nov. 14, over 1,000 Pennsylvania teachers received free sustainable energy training and teaching materials at the Sustainable Energy Education Workshop from Citizen Power, a nonprofit environmental and consumer advocacy organization. The free professional training and $170 worth of classroom resources, including photovoltaic and concentrating solar kits, wind turbines, LED light bulbs, books and DVDs, were a boost to the state, where schools suffered $860 million in budget cuts in 2011-2012.

  • Manufacturing biodiesel fuel.
  • Building a geodesic-domed greenhouse.
  • Measuring the environmental impact of abandoned industrial canals.

Reed Intermediate School, Newtown (Conn.) Public SchoolsDistricts looking to balance cost, sustainability and their carbon footprint when building a new school should consider wood, urges reThink Wood, a national coalition of North America’s forestry and wood industries. Formed in 2011, the coalition promotes wood as a low-carbon alternative to steel, masonry and concrete.

Thomas Built Buses, Kansas City (Kan.)


In the 14 years that George Taylor has been with Kansas City (Kan.) Public Schools as the director of transportation, he has seen his fleet of 160 buses age and tire. As maintenance costs began to increase on the 12-18-year-old buses, along with diesel fuel prices escalating, the district was in need of new buses. “Funding has been decreasing over the last five years,” says Taylor. “Maintenance expenses were going up because we had buses that were 12 to 18 years old.”

green schools, solatube

MUSE School CA, a non-profit k8 school in Malibu, Calif., partnered with Solatube International last year to provide natural daylight in school classrooms, increase the performance of students and teachers and enrich the sustainable design. Solatube Daylighting Systems harvest daylight on the rooftop and allocate light evenly into a room with a highly reflective tube and diffuser at the ceiling.

Springfield (Pa.) Literacy Center, sustainable schools

Imagine a school with classrooms on only one side of the building, windows that look out onto picturesque landscape, a path outside that features the ABCs, and a forest area with a tree house where a classroom of kids can read. The Springfield Literacy Center is that place, and 600 kindergartners and first-graders in the Springfield (Pa.) School District gather for school there every day.

Since the U.S. Green Building Council launched LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Schools certification in 2007, building sustainable, eco-friendly facilities has become the norm for new construction and is statewide policy in 13 states. However, there is still much to be done with the approximately 99,000 existing public schools across the United States. According to “A National Action Plan for Greening America’s Schools” (Sundance, 2011), on average, green schools save $100,000 per year on operating costs. Over 10 years, America’s schools could save $20 billion.

The first crop of Green Ribbon Schools, recognized for energy conservation, creating healthy learning spaces, school grounds, building operations and teaching environmental literacy, will be announced next year by the U.S. Department of Education.