The Measure of a Green School: Occupant Health

Published on: 
31 Mar 2015
Anisa Heming

Over the past four years, the Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools Award (ED-Green Ribbon Schools) has united the national green schools movement with a universal set of criteria. These criteria have the potential to inform and guide all schools toward sustainability, not just the very best of the best that have sought and will continue to seek the award. We believe the green schools community in the U.S. currently has a landmark opportunity to define a clear and comprehensive set of measures that all schools can use to track their progress in harmony with the three pillars of ED-Green Ribbon Schools: minimized environmental impact, improved occupant health, and effective environmental and sustainability literacy for all graduates.

In February 2015, the Center for Green Schools at USGBC (Center) joined with four leading organizations in the green schools movement to invite non-profits, agencies, advocates and school leaders, collectively representing 67 organizations, to contribute their expertise in three summits. These day-long events addressed how schools across the country might be able to measure their progress consistently and simply. 

When it comes to comprehensive sustainability, giving schools clear and simple ways to measure and communicate progress is central to our movement’s ability to track improvement, increase demand, drive funding support, and motivate change. Over the next several years, the Center will convene a conversation about how schools should be given credit for important work they have already done, as well as what existing and available data can inform the public about the state of the nation’s schools. 

This series of blogs details the activities and outcomes of the three summits, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the conversations taking place among leaders in the green schools movement.

Occupant Health in Schools: February 12, 2015

Co-host: Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard School of Public Health

Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment joined the Center in hosting 33 people from 26 organizations to discuss measures of school occupant health. Several of the groups represented had convened around the topic of student health metrics, and the summit built from these conversations to set ground rules for common measures.

The challenge of collecting health-related data in schools is immense, and it impacts various social services as well as school resource allocation. Summit participants stressed that, over time, school health data will need to serve schools themselves as well as health professionals. To be of service, data will need to be clear and accessible. Participants spent time considering what kind of data matters to different stakeholders and also what kind of data is currently available and public. The group also recognized the need for increased awareness and education about environmental health and the impact of buildings on student and teacher health.

The summit concluded with participant commitments to engage in further dialogue to arrive at common measures of school occupant health. View a full list of commitments. The Center expressed its dedication to putting the necessary resources toward the development of these measures and to beginning the process with a full inventory and analysis of existing efforts. The group committed to positive, forward-thinking messaging to schools, districts, and states to encourage improvement over time and build the capacity of schools to excel.

Do you have knowledge of an existing framework or academic study that would be helpful to the Center’s effort to lead the development of common measures for the green schools movement? We want to hear from you! Please submit information at the following links for frameworks, datasets, or research studies. Contact [email protected] with any questions.