Top 10 highlights of 2019 from the Center for Green Schools

Published on: 
24 Jan 2020
Anisa Heming

Does anyone else feel like they woke up in the future every time they write the year “2020”? Let’s take a just a minute to look back at comfortable old 2019. The Center for Green Schools has put together our top 10 highlights from a banner year, giving you some insight into our work’s current scale and reach. We’re zooming into 2020 with quite a lot under the hood (zero carbon emissions, of course)!

1. Naming the 2019 Best of Green Schools awards

If you’re wondering which article from the Center for Green Schools had the highest readership in 2019, it would be the announcement of the 2019 Best of Green Schools awards, with over four times the average readership of other articles. We love recognizing excellence—especially on stage in front of a record 1,000 people at the 2019 Green Schools Conference—and we’re energized by all of the high-quality submissions we get each year for these awards. Stay tuned for the announcement of the 2020 awards on March 2, at this year’s Green Schools Conference in Portland, Oregon, March 2–4.

2019 Best of Green Schools awards

Best of Green Schools award winners.

2. Putting numbers to our work with disadvantaged communities

We’ve always emphasized that the mission of the Center for Green Schools is to ensure that all students have access to green schools, but we haven’t always published the numbers to back it up. Here are a few glimpses, and even more data is being crunched for 2020.

  • Within our USGBC membership, we currently have 51 K–12 members, all of whom were granted a free first year of membership.
  • 38 of these members are U.S. public schools or districts who serve, collectively, students of whom 62% are classified as disadvantaged due to family income.
  • For the past two years, USGBC has given 94 mini-grants to 78 teachers to help them host meaningful Green Apple Day of Service projects in their schools—these grants have impacted the learning environments of 54,000 students, 58% of whom are disadvantaged.
  • Since 2014, USGBC has given year-long scholarships to selected school district staff to travel to conferences and receive targeted support from our team. All together, these 31 districts serve over 2.1 million students, 64% of whom are disadvantaged.

3. Hitting 2,000 Green Classroom Professionals

We ended 2019 with 2,151 Green Classroom Professionals, double the number we had on our roster in 2017. Most of these participants are teachers or school staff in the U.S. and Canada, but we’re also seeing growth in the Middle East because of a brand-new Arabic GCP course. The Green Classroom Professional Certificate is our course offering to educate teachers and other school staff about how their actions impact the health and sustainability of the learning environment.

Green Classroom Professionals

Newly minted Green Classroom Professionals.

4. Sustaining 20% growth in Learning Lab users

Since its release in 2015, Learning Lab, our platform to house lessons to educate students about sustainability, has seen around 20% growth in users each year—hitting over 4,700 users at the end of 2019. We created this platform because we believe that easy access to classroom content will help increase sustainability literacy, and we have focused on continually increasing and refining content through our work with partner organizations. The platform now houses 692 lessons in both English and Spanish, across a wide array of sustainability topics.

5. Launching the inaugural cohort of Building Learners schools

The new Building Learners program empowers students to use their buildings as learning laboratories. Students use Arc to collect and analyze data, and they conduct real-world investigations that inform sustainability improvements at their school. Working with their school’s facility manager and a volunteer green building professional serving as a mentor, students get exposure to sustainability careers and build positive relationships with members of their community. Though we’ve been piloting this program for two years, in fall 2019, the two-year Building Learners program was purchased by six schools, our inaugural class.

6. Inspiring new Facebook followers

Facebook followers come, and Facebook followers go. But around April 2019, we saw a jump of about 1,000 new followers. We’ve been focused on relevant and timely content on our social media channels, and the increase clearly means we’re putting out information that those who care about green schools want. Our two top posts this year? One was about an Irish teenager who won a global science award for removing microplastics from water, and the other was about forest-based preschools (we all want to spend our time there!). You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

7. Breaking the 1 million mark for all-time Green Apple Day of Service volunteers

If you know the Center for Green Schools, then you know Green Apple Day of Service. Through this annual effort, we help green schools champions take action wherever they are. Every year, we see projects done by communities around the world, making a positive impact on the school environment and establishing a connection between the school and new community resources. This year, we officially hit the 1 million mark in all-time volunteers. From its founding in 2012 to the end of 2019, we’ve seen total participation in Green Apple Day of Service of 1.1 million volunteers serving 3.6 million students in over 80 countries.

Green Apple Day of Service volunteers

Volunteers at a Green Apple Day of Service project.

8. Hitting a record 79 bills introduced in statehouses to support green schools

Behind the scenes, we’re active in federal and state-level advocacy to provide expertise to legislators who want to support green schools through school construction, renovation or operational standards. In each of the past four years, we’ve chosen a topic to conduct policy analysis for state legislators, and these resources have been used to encourage a steady increase in proposed green schools-related bills—79 bills introduced in statehouses in 2019. Notably, there was a lot of activity around the policy analysis we did on lead in school drinking water last year.

9. Getting to 33% growth in the School District Sustainability Leaders Network

Most of the day-to-day action to make green schools a reality happens at the school and school district level. For the past 10 years, we’ve been serving and growing a network of school district staff who are committed to sustainability within their school systems—increasing in numbers by around 20% each year. In 2019, we doubled down on outreach efforts, and we achieved 33% growth. This valuable network currently serves over 300 individuals in around 150 districts.

10. Topping 200 million square feet of LEED-certified schools

To advocate for the design, construction and operation of green schools, we have to be able to tell people what we mean. LEED is integral to our ability to influence policy and guide investment. We continually check in with our most active users of LEED in school buildings, and we work with the LEED team to improve how the rating system works for schools. In 2019, we hit a milestone, with over 200 million square feet of LEED certified schools (217 million, to be exact!). You can check out some of the latest certified schools in our regularly published slideshow.

LEED Gold Common Ground High School

The LEED Gold Common Ground High School in New Haven, Connecticut.

USGBC’s work in schools is rooted in the idea that all students deserve sustainable schools that improve their health and prepare them for the future. Green schools give students the environment they deserve, one that helps them stay active, breathe healthier air, and stay focused and ready to learn. Plus, by modeling green choices within schools, we help students learn that they can make sustainable, healthy choices that are better for themselves, the planet and their communities.

If you haven’t joined us yet, sign up for our newsletter in the footer of our website, join us for a webcast, or come say hello at the upcoming Green Schools Conference.

Learn more about the Center for Green Schools