Schools throughout the United States are often mouldy, toxic, poorly lit and overcrowded, says one of the organisations behind a new initiative designed to complement existing green building and construction efforts in schools throughout the country.
The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) says the learning and teaching environment in many classrooms across the US is substandard, and that the goal of the new Green Apple initiative is to transform schools across the country into healthy, safe and productive places while raising awareness on how to use existing facilities to create a physical environment that is conducive to learning.
“More than one quarter of all Americans walk through the doors of a school every day, yet instead of walking into places of opportunity, millions enter buildings where the air they breathe is filled with toxins and mould, where classrooms are poorly lit and overcrowded and where resources are limited and out-dated,” the USGBC says in a statement, adding that a large number of children around the country are learning in buildings that compromise their health and their ability to succeed.
The Green Apple initiative was announced on Monday at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York. Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC, says the aim of the new initiative is to promote awareness about the physical learning environment – an area often neglected in debate surrounding education standards.
“The conversation around education most often focuses on ‘what’ children are learning and ‘who’ is teaching them, but through Green Apple we are bringing attention to ‘where’ our children learn because we understand that where we learn matters,” Gutter says.
Rather than involving new buildings or infrastructure, the new initiative is aimed at teaching school administrators, teachers and students how to make the best use of existing facilities.
A ‘Lighting Audit’ program, for example, explains how to maximise classroom light by swapping old light bulbs for more efficient ones, keeping the blinds open and keeping windows free of student artwork.
Similarly, a water audit program shows how to maximise water usage by conducting walk-throughs of school grounds in search of water connections, calculating the amount of water being used daily, installing faucet aerators, fixing leaks and tightening up loose connections.
While much of the initiative revolves around school infrastructure, its reach extends to more general areas, with many programs involving students. A ‘clean up’ day, the first event to be organised under the new initiative, will be conducted next Saturday with other events involving students planting gardens and making signs to remind others to turn of lights and not to leave taps running.
Along with USGBC and the Clinton Global Initiative, other partners in the Green Apple program include textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin (HMH), building industry and aerospace technology provider United Technologies Corporation (UTC), tiles and commercial flooring company Interface, hand dryer manufacturer Excel Dryer, floor covering, ceiling systems and technical insulation products manufacturer Armstrong and Solar City, a solar power provider.