As we look ahead to Greenbuild, we do so knowing that our schools are more sustainable today than they were a year ago thanks to the hard work of the Center for Green Schools. The Center’s recent Green Apple Day of Service netted nearly 2,100 volunteer projects globally, with thousands of volunteers spreading the word about the benefits of a sustainable environment.
Here at United Technologies, we were proud to expand our Green Apple Day of Service participation to 19 events across the U.S., China, India and Singapore. More than 300 of our employees visited local schools to help promote recycling, construct mulching bins out of recycled lumber and decorate rain barrels to capture rainwater for use on school grounds.
While these projects might seem small, don’t underestimate the benefits they can reap. At United Technologies, our approach to sustainability is rooted in the belief that green building will accelerate through education. This year’s day of service is a case in point. Think about the number of young minds we collectively touched. Many projects involved partnership with students – interaction that will go a long way to actively empower the next generation to take action. In addition, through these same projects we’re also providing students firsthand knowledge of the measurable advantages of a sustainable environment.
Data shows green schools boost student performance and save costs. Looking first at student benefit, a recent McGraw Hill study found that 74 percent of K-12 and 63 percent of higher education respondents believe green buildings help improve student productivity and test scores.
Higher scores and productivity are great social benefits, for sure, but far from the only ones. That same McGraw Hill study found that more than 75 percent of respondents consider improving indoor air quality and enhancing health and well-being to be key reasons for their green building efforts.
According to survey results from the Association of School Nurses, more than 40 percent of surveyed school nurses report that children and staff are adversely impacted by avoidable indoor pollutants. The Centers for Disease Controls finds that more than 7 million children under the age of 18 suffer from asthma, which is the leading cause of school absenteeism due to chronic disease. In fact, it accounts for roughly 14 million missed school days each year.
The social benefits are evident; so are the financial benefits. The Center for Green Schools has found that practical energy improvements in schools could save 25 percent or $2 billion nationally, enough to hire 35,845 new teachers.
We clearly have a great opportunity to not only make our schools showcases for energy efficiency, but optimal environments for full learning potential. While there is still much ground to be gained, thanks to the recent Green Apple Day of Service, we’re one step closer.
As we gear up for Greenbuild, I encourage everyone to remember the impact we can have when we work together for a common cause. The Center for Green Schools has a simple, but powerful mission to put every student in a green school within this generation. Let’s make that goal a reality.
John Mandyck is chief sustainability officer for UTC Building & Industrial Systems, a unit of United Technologies, Corp., a leading provider to the aerospace and building systems industries worldwide. Mandyck chairs the Corporate Advisory Board of the World Green Building Council and serves as incoming chairman of the Board of Directors for the Urban Green Council in New York City. He is also an advisor to the China Green Building Council and was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Energy to co-chair the Department of Energy’s Appliance Standards and Rulemaking Federal Advisory Committee.