Looking back over 2020: Center for Green Schools milestones

Published on: 
5 Jan 2021
Anisa Heming

The challenges of 2020 were felt acutely in K–12 schools and in families with children in school. As the world has realized more clearly than ever, a healthy economy rests on the shoulders of schools. In the spring, knowing the hard choices and nationwide confusion that was likely on the horizon, we began work immediately to give assistance and resources wherever the Center for Green Schools could be most helpful. Like you, our carefully laid plans for 2020 went out the window, and we made new plans to respond to the moment.

Looking back over the year, we at the Center, and all of you who support us, have a lot to be proud of. We have adapted, pivoted and sorted through the noise to focus on what matters. Here are the most important milestones for the Center for Green Schools in 2020.

1. Thousands reached in online education

Through over 20 virtual education sessions, the Center reached nearly 5,000 people with targeted, timely information related to air quality and sustainability in the time of COVID-19. Over 90% of attendees said they would recommend the sessions to others. Did you miss any of the content? Check out the recordings.

2. New users flocking to Learning Lab

This year saw a 26% increase in registered users on our Learning Lab platform, where more teachers and parents than ever sought ideas for incorporating sustainability into new models of teaching and learning. The platform now provides content to 6,000 users. See what the Learning Lab platform offers.

3. Hundreds of students engaging with green careers

Future is Green, our annual program to engage students during Greenbuild, continued in full force around this year’s virtual conference. During live web sessions, over 300 students at 10 California high schools engaged with USGBC members representing a range of professions, from electrical engineering to construction management to sustainability consulting. In addition, USGBC hosted its first “summer camp” to bring 40 students together virtually to learn about sustainable city planning through hands-on activities and real-world adventures. Read reflections from USGBC Summer Camp.

4. Exponential growth in Green Classroom Professional certificate holders

We have never seen the kind of jump in Green Classroom Professional (GCP) holders that we saw this year—nearly 50% growth to reach over 3,100 people. Participants found the course and certificate useful for themselves, their colleagues and others in their communities, when schools were reopening (or considering reopening) during the pandemic in late summer. We lowered the price for a “flash sale” in August to encourage more people to take advantage of the important information presented in the program. Check out the GCP course.

5. Exciting progress toward federal investment in school infrastructure

After years of advocacy from USGBC and our partners, in the first week of July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed significant funding for school building repairs and improvements as part of H.R. 2, the INVEST in America Act. While federal funding for school buildings and grounds has yet to make it into law, the inclusion of this type of funding (which includes green building requirements) in the INVEST in America Act, the House’s Heroes Act, and the Biden-Harris platform is a signal that our politicians are hearing from us that too many of the nation’s schools are in unacceptable condition. Read the latest from our Advocacy team.

6. Renewed focus on, and results gained for, social equity in our programs

The Center for Green Schools took important steps to ensure that programs where we recruit school and district participation are taking into account community and individual resources more intentionally. With the support of Building Learners program sponsors Shaw Contract and Arc, we offered full scholarships for many participants. This year’s Leaders in Sustainable Schools Fellowship, which provides free coaching and professional development to selected school district sustainability staff, will impact the learning environments and educational programs of 1,266,075 students, a majority of whom are Black or Hispanic and also receive free and reduced lunch.

What’s more, we are excited to have connected with a group of university researchers who are examining which communities are impacted by LEED-certified schools and are finding results that indicate that LEED certification is more likely to be used for schools built in disadvantaged communities—a signal that our decade of advocacy efforts may be working. Read the published study.

7. New purchasing guidance to support asthma

At the end of September, we published a new guide for schools that gives science-based tips for purchasing cleaning products, filters, furniture and rugs, and markers and paints that are better for teachers and students with asthma. Chronic illnesses like asthma don’t recede in the midst of a pandemic, and it’s important to continue protecting our most vulnerable populations. Explore the guide.

8. Our best-ever Green Schools Conference and Expo

Over 600 teachers, school leaders, district staff, and supporting business and nonprofits gathered in-person in Portland, Oregon for the 10th Green Schools Conference in early March, right before the full weight of the pandemic hit our country. We are grateful to have had this time to see smiling faces, laugh together and be lifted up by our shared sense of purpose. Until we can get together in person again, we will look forward to seeing you all at our virtual 2021 conference to get re-inspired by our community. Learn more about the conference.

The green building community is crucial to supporting sustainability, resilience, health and wellness, and equity in our education institutions in this time of great need. Together, we can ensure that schools are strengthened on the other side of this crisis, ready to respond to whatever comes next in ways that support health, regenerate our planet and further our economy on behalf of every person and community. A decade after its founding, the Center for Green Schools leads this charge. Join us.

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