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State Legislators Celebrate Green Schools While Paying Tribute to One of the Movement’s Greatest Champions

By Nathaniel Allen
Center for Green Schools Advocacy Lead

Earlier this week, the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council co-hosted a reception at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) alongside the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) to celebrate the impressive growth of green schools policy activity. More than 80 related bills across 28 states have been considered in state legislatures just this year. Additionally, 28 of these bills have been signed into law, and more may still be on the way. Surely these are stats worth celebrating.

This year’s monumental progress is enumerated in a report released at the reception, which drew together approximately 50 lawmakers and members of the NGO community. The report highlights the variety of ways that legislators are using their pen to help make green schools for all within this generation a reality. From appropriating funds for school upgrades, to standards around new school construction, to improved operations and maintenance best practices, the report showcases tried-and-tested policy ideas and fresh, new approaches.

A few highlights include:

  • Utah passed HJR1 which highlights the importance of green schools and encourages new construction and major renovation projects to be healthy and energy-efficient.
  • Vermont passed S.92, instituting a green cleaning policy for schools.
  • Arkansas appropriated money through HB1078 to fund infrastructure improvements consistent with green building rating systems.
  • Illinois passed a resolution to encourage participation in Green Apple Day of Service this coming September 29.

The full report includes many more examples. The new ideas have also been incorporated into the Center’s growing green schools menu of policy options.

This is a significant increase in the volume of state legislative activity on green schools from years past, and it demonstrates that even amid unproductive political discourse and gridlock, state lawmakers are continuing to put differences aside to prioritize the importance of green schools in our communities.

Illinois State Representative Karen May, chair and co-founder of the 50 for 50 Green Schools Caucus Initiative, urged her colleagues to continue to fight to make green schools their lasting legacy that will impact communities for generations to come.

Doug Widener, Executive Director of the IL-USGBC Chapter, Rep. May, Nate Allen and Jeremy Sigmon, pictured with a  greenapple necklace, hand-made by USGBC's own Maggie Comstock


After six terms of dedicated service to the legislature, Rep. May is retiring at the end of this session. She has been a terrific champion for the green schools movement. Since helping to found the 50 for 50 Initiative, Rep. May has elevated this topic among her colleagues in Illinois, organized state lawmakers around the country in the 50 for 50 network, helped create resources specifically for state legislators to advance green schools, and most recently, brought together both sides of the aisle around an issue that’s too important to fall victim to partisan politics. We will miss working with Rep. May as a member of the Illinois legislature, but look forward to future opportunities to engage with one of this movement’s greatest champions. On behalf of all your friends at USGBC, thank you, Karen!

For additional ideas and resources about advancing effective green school policies, consult USGBC’s evolving Green Schools Menu of Options for State Legislators, available for download at www.centerforgreenschools.org/50for50.

For more about Tuesday’s event, and the release of a new policy brief on how policymakers can tap residential buildings to further sustainability goals, see “Policymakers Imagine a Contributing Role for 130+ Million (Greener) Homes.”