Top 10 resources at the Center for Green Schools

Published on: 
10 Jan 2017
Phoebe Beierle

As a green schools advocate, finding the most recent environmental health statistic, appropriate green building case study or hands-on sustainability lesson for your work can be challenge. Over the last six years, the Center for Green Schools at USGBC has developed a number of impactful, industry-recognized resources and programs, and we’re excited to highlight our top 10 for you here.

Whomever your audience or whatever your project, we hope these reports, action plans, curriculum websites and more will help you make the case for greener, healthier schools! 

Defining green schools

1. The Whole-School Sustainability Framework

The Whole-School Sustainability (WSS) Framework is a go-to resource for anyone working on greening schools, because it illustrates how every school can establish the conditions necessary to support its journey toward sustainability. The WSS Framework was developed through years of research by the Institute for the Built Environment at Colorado State University and was produced and published by the Center for Green Schools.

The framework is organized into three aspects of schools—organizational culture, physical place and educational program—and is supported by literature and case studies from social science, business, education and building sciences.

2. Guide To Resources for Green Ribbon Schools Applications

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education inspired schools to strive for excellence in sustainability when they created the Green Ribbon Schools Award program and defined the three main components of a green school: reduce environmental impacts and costs, improve occupants’ health and comfort and increase environmental and sustainability literacy.

To enable all schools to make progress in the three pillars, Green Strides was established. It's a one-stop shop for resources, webinars, case studies, promising practices and collaboration. Schools preparing a Green Ribbon award application will find the list of essential tools and resources in the Guide To Resources for Green Ribbon Schools Applications helpful when documenting green school programs, policies and practices.

Making the case: Policy and data

3. National Action Plan for Educating for Sustainability

The National Action Plan for Educating for Sustainability is the result of a collaborative effort among stakeholders from academic, corporate and nonprofit sectors to establish a shared vision where all students graduate educated for a sustainable future by 2040. This Action Plan is particularly relevant to educational leaders, since it outlines recommendations that will drive the evolution of K–12 education.

4. 2016 State of Our Schools

Did you know that the U.S. underspends on public school facilities by $46 billion annually? In the 2016 State of Our Schools report, we compile and analyze the best available school district data about K–12 public school facilities funding, revealing the reality of inherent and persistent inequity in school funding.

5. The Impact of School Buildings on Student Health and Performance

Are you looking for clear, defensible research to support the need for better, healthier classrooms? Jointly released with McGraw Hill Foundation, this white paper is an accessible account of current research connecting school buildings with student health and performance. Educators, policy makers, researchers and others will find the summary of research into how students breathe, see, hear, move and learn useful to their everyday work. 

Going green? Here's how to get started

6. Every School Can Be a Green School: Getting Started Checklist

One of our most popular resources is this 12-step checklist of simple green school priority actions to help you start transforming your school into a greener, healthier and more engaging space for students and staff. Especially helpful to readers are the lists of best-practice case studies and links to industry resources.

7. Powering Down: A Toolkit for Behavior-Based Energy Conservation in K–12 Schools

If your school is looking to go green and save money by getting students and teachers involved, then the Powering Down paper is a must-read. Written with lead author Kate Crosby, the paper follows the experiences and shares best practices of five public schools that reduced electricity use by an astonishing 20 to 37 percent through behavior-based strategies alone.

8. Learning Lab

Are you seeking standards-based, hands-on lessons on the topics of environmental science, energy conservation, composting, solar or climate justice? Look no further! Learning Lab is your one-stop shop for over 400 curated sustainability lessons to help students understand the interdependence of economic, environmental and social systems and to be empowered as global citizens. Learn more at

Consider using these resources to deepen student learning and engage the community in a service and learning project during Green Apple Day of Service.

Greening higher education

9. Roadmap to a Green Campus

Created with the support of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the Roadmap to a Green Campus is a strategy guide for college campuses that want to use the LEED green building certification program as a framework for developing and evolving sustainability plans. The Roadmap references more than 100 tools and resources to support campus greening efforts and profiles institutional success stories.

10. Establishing a Culture of Performance on Your Campus: Campus Implementation Workbook

For schools and campuses dedicated to tracking the performance of their buildings, this workbook will be a powerful resource. Using the LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance rating system as a framework, this workbook will help your team implement a green existing buildings program and establish a culture of performance.