An Eight Word Case for Green Schools

Published on: 
15 Mar 2013

By Cliff Ashburner, Past-Chair, USGBC-Kentucky

I was asked to participate in a Pecha Kucha night last month, specifically to talk about green schools and how the Kentucky Chapter is leading this movement. The audience would be diverse and not from the "green building community." The presentation, being in the Pecha Kucha format, would consist of 20 slides on which I could spend 20 seconds each. Without thinking too much, I agreed to talk and began to work on my presentation. Most of the time when someone from the Chapter presents, it's either a "short" presentation at a chamber lunch where you talk for 20 minutes or so, or a timed continuing education talk at a trade show where you need to fill an hour or more. Explaining the concept of green schools to an uninitiated audience and then highlighting how the Chapter is driving this movement in 400 seconds was a major shift.

In my law practice, I'm often in a position where I must present a complex case within an abbreviated timeframe. So, when presented with the challenge of the Pecha Kucha format, I began to boil our message down to be as succinct as possible. First, I outlined what I thought an uninitiated audience needed to know about the basics of a green school. Second, I summarized the Chapter's goals and efforts so far. Third, I considered why green schools were so important to the Chapter. Finally, I threw it all together and boiled it down again and again, tossing aside superfluous information and adding in some humor to capture the attention of the audience. The process went beyond the "elevator pitch," until I had what I thought was the shortest "case" possible for green schools: 8 simple words. (I won't share them with you in the hopes that you'll watch the talk – it’s only 400 seconds.) The presentation was a success.

USGBC and the Center for Green Schools provide Chapters with a plethora of tools to move the market and change how people think about the built environment. While these can be very helpful, it’s imperative to adapt your message to your specific audience. Take some time and figure out what it is that captures the imagination of the people in your Chapter's territory. It may come down to eight words.