Green schools are better for the planet because they lessen environmental impacts, conserve resources and educate the next generation of environmental stewards.
Buildings are one of the heaviest consumers of natural resources, using more than 70 percent of electricity and contributing to nearly 40 percent of CO2 emissions in the United States. The 100,000 public schools in the U.S. serve nearly one-sixth of the nation’s population every day. The scale of the infrastructure needed for this mission is huge: K–12 public school districts operate more than 7.5 billion gross square feet of building area and an estimated 2 million acres of land. The square footage of public school district facilities equals almost half the area of all U.S. commercial office space. With so much building area, the potential and actual impact of environmentally sensitive practices is huge.
The anatomy and operation of a green school includes reduction in energy and water use, recycling efforts during and after construction, native and adaptive landscaping, practices that reduce the demand on municipal infrastructure and strategies that improve resilience to climate change. Green buildings are composed of sustainably produced, recycled and recyclable materials and products. They also lessen reliance on fossil fuels, thus decreasing carbon dioxide emissions and other forms of pollution harmful to humans and the planet alike.