USGBC has specific LEED credits for schools that can help deliver safe, healthy and sustainable learning environments for all children. As volunteers in 70-plus participate in Green Apple Day of Service events, USGBC’s Center for Green Schools is excited to share a movement of parents, teachers, companies and organizations working to transform schools around the world.
Through the #TheresACreditForThat campaign, we showcase the LEED v4 credits that are most effective, particularly for the places where we learn. Here are a few of our favorite credits to can help make green schools a reality everywhere.
Green Vehicles—BD+C, 1 point
The Green Vehicles credit aims to reduce pollution by promoting alternatives to conventionally fueled automobiles and can be applied to schools in the form of alternatively fueled school busses. Making this switch will have positive impacts on both the environment and public health, as diesel exhaust from idling buses releases fine particulates, such as soot, which are particularly harmful to children.
You can bring this credit to your school through various projects.
- Register your school for National Walk and Bike to School Day in October. This action will reduce air pollution from vehicles, create a healthier environment for the school and bring students and families together to build a stronger community.
- Raise awareness of the associated risks of idling cars with the anti-idling Turn it Off campaign. Since elevated levels of toxins have been found during pickup times at schools, this campaign challenges parents and guardians to pledge to turn off their cars if they will be idling for over 10 seconds.
- Start a Flag Program at your school to alert students and staff to how clean or polluted the local air is that day. Every day, your school will raise a flag that responds to the air quality, changing from green to purple flag if the air is unhealthy. This allows staff to adjust outdoor activities depending on the air quality of a given day.
The Daylight credit helps connect building occupants with the outdoors, reinforce circadian rhythms and reduce electricity use by introducing natural light into the space. Increasing daylight in school buildings can have positive effects on the health and behavior of students and staff. It’s also been shown to improve student performance and increase workplace productivity, as well as conserve resources.
Schools can introduce the benefits of daylighting into their communities in a multitude of ways.
- Improve lighting in classrooms by taking simple steps, such as removing children’s artwork from the windows or opening blinds to let sunshine in.
- Connect environmental learning with your curriculum. USGBC’s Learning Lab offers a lesson on “Investigating Lightbulbs,” which allows students to conduct experiments on light bulbs and consider the pros and cons of different light sources. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory also offers STEM programs to engage students and teachers in energy efficiency learning.
- Work with your school administration to host classes outdoors or in areas of the school with better daylighting. The National Education Association offers a great list of tips for taking your class outside.
Low Emitting Materials—BD+C, 1 to 3 points
The Low Emitting Materials credit intends to reduce concentrations of chemical contaminants that can damage air quality, human health productivity and the environment. Schools can incorporate this credit into their buildings by ensuring that interior building materials are low-VOC, as prolonged exposure to VOCs has been linked to chronic health issues.
There are various projects that you can adopt to bring the benefits of this credit to your school.
- Perform an indoor air quality (IAQ) walk-through of your school to inform what kind of strategies you should pursue to improve. Check out the U.S. EPA's IAQTools for Schools Action Kit for guidance.
- Implement a Green Cleaning Program by training your facilities staff and custodial team on the importance of green cleaning in reducing environmental hazards and protecting community health. Refer to the Healthy Schools Campaign’s Green Clean Schools Program for a list of steps.
- Incorporate student learning into your indoor air assessment. USGBC’s Learning Lab offers a four lesson module called “Air Eco-Audit,” which guides students in leading their own indoor air audit. This can help the school maintain healthy air quality while engaging students in environmental learning.
These three credits highlight different ways you can incorporate learning about energy efficiency into your school. Adopt these projects and join the movement to make schools across the world healthier and more sustainable for future generations.