Earlier this month, more than 600 attendees gathered in Portland, Oregon, to celebrate sustainability in schools at the Green Schools Conference and Expo (GSCE). GSCE is the only national event to bring together people who lead, operate, build and teach in U.S. schools. 2020 marked the 10th year of the conference, and was punctuated by celebrating and recognizing the power of youth voices in the future sustainability movement.
Inspired by youth leaders
The youth climate movement has inspired action from today’s youth across the globe, from organized marches to communication campaigns to school climate strikes. These movements are energizing and changing the mindsets of students and adults alike. GSCE worked to ensure that these student voices had a seat at the table for this year’s conference.
Our inspiring speakers gained standing ovations from the many educators and sustainability professionals in the audience. TV host and ocean explorer Danni Washington, who focuses her work on connecting with youth to inspire and motivate them to effect change, opened up the conference with personal stories and practical tips on engaging students through the ever-changing social media landscape.
To close out the conference, a panel of teenage student activists from across the U.S. discussed their experiences leading the next generation’s environmental movement, and how they hope their adult counterparts can meet them where they are in the fight for a sustainable future.
The Student Summit at GSCE, hosted in partnership with Oregon Green Schools and Clark County Green Schools, was a one-day, student-only meeting. It featured panel discussions with youth leaders and environmental activists, training sessions on how to build a successful climate justice campaign, spotlight breakout sessions dedicated to sharing, and celebration of how they are making change in their communities.
Scholarships for future sustainability leaders
It’s an important guiding principle for USGBC to transform schools into safer and healthier places for students to learn, and every day we work to equip young people with the tools and best practices that will lead them to an independent and sustainable way of life.
To show how wholeheartedly we believe in the power of storytelling, highlighting the humanity behind our sustainable actions and partnering with young people, USGBC president and CEO Mahesh Ramanujam announced at the Opening Plenary that Living Standard and the Center for Green Schools will offer scholarships to two students, one for $2,500 and one for $1,000.
To apply, students can send in a video about how they are making a positive impact in their schools and communities by leading on sustainability. In addition to receiving the scholarship money, the students’ stories will be prominently featured on Living Standard, the Center for Green Schools, and USGBC digital properties. Students are asked to submit videos by April 12.
Green Apple Day of Service and Best of Green Schools Awards
Leaders from across the country were recognized on stage for the Green Apple Day of Service and Best of Green Schools Awards, including international projects from China and Qatar.
The Best of Green Schools Awards represent the best environmental efforts in schools across the country and highlight national leaders in school sustainability. They are co-presented by USGBC’s Center for Green Schools and the Green Schools National Network.
Best of Green Schools honorees include:
- Ambassador Award: Reilly Loveland, New Buildings Institute and Portland Green Schools Committee (Portland, Oregon)
- Business Leader Award: Grimm + Parker Architects (Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia)
- Policy Maker Award: Jay Inslee, Governor of the state of Washington (Olympia, Washington)
- School System Award: School District of Palm Beach County (Palm Beach, Florida)
- Student Leader Award: Henry Anderson, Sunset High School (Portland, Oregon)
- Transformation Award: Bruce Lindsay, Manager of Energy and Resources Conservation, Brevard Public Schools (Viera, Florida)
- Special Recognition—Moment for the Movement Award: Student-Led Climate Protests (worldwide)
- Michelle Curreri Collaborator Award: Eco-School Network (Portland, Oregon)
- Higher Education Institution Award: Center for Public Engagement with Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
- K–12 School Award: Common Ground High School (New Haven, Connecticut)
The Green Apple Day of Service Awards recognize outstanding K–12 sustainability service learning projects and leaders. The winners include:
- Deep Impact Award: Net Impact ISB Living Labs | Bus Fleet Electrification (Beijing, China)
- Creative Approach Award: Garbage to Glam: Connecting the Dots (Virginia Beach, Virginia)
- Broad Engagement Award: Qatar Eco-Schools Congress (Doha, Qatar)
We’re happy that so many of our colleagues in the education and sustainability field were able to join us to mark our 10th year, and our first in the Pacific Northwest. The 2021 GSCE location will be announced in the coming months, and the call for proposals will open soon.
View photo highlights of GSCE 2020: