As society adopts a more sustainable approach to life, it is only logical that the educational institutions for the future co-inhabitants of Earth change as well. As a mom who strives to raise her kids to love and respect the environment, it worries me that the schools I send them to may not have the same attitudes towards life that I do. In an effort to make my kids’ schools more aware of sustainable measures they can take, I’ve researched some of the Greenest schools in America as suggestions for model Green schools, from elementary to college.
1. Carrboro High School (North Carolina)
Carrboro High in North Carolina is the state’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified high school. Designed to accommodate 1,200 students at one time, the school’s impressive design and sustainable practices are the perfect breeding ground for eco-warriors.
With a LEED Silver rating, this 148,023 square foot facility boasts of three 35,000 gallon reservoirs that collect and filter rainwater used for the school’s bathrooms. Each reservoir has retention ponds to catch rainwater overflow that will be used to water landscaping. To maximize the use of sunlight, Carrboro is fitted with large windows in their classrooms, gyms, media center, and common areas. These rooms are also equipped with occupancy sensors that automatically detect if the room is empty or in use and turns on or off the overhead lights accordingly. Perhaps one of the coolest features of this school is that it has an electricity converting system that is a great example for science classes. That is, solar energy is harvested to pre-heat water photovoltaic panels, these in turn convert the light energy into electricity that makes mechanical room motors run.
2. Kersey Creek Elementary School (Virginia)
Kersey Creek Elementary uses the sun’s orientation to the school’s geophysical location in its design to maximize the use of sunlight in its facilities, reducing the electricity usage of the entire school. The crowning glory of this design is an open-air green space equal to the whole building’s carbon footprint. The children have also been actively participating in green practices by recycling newspaper, plastic, cans, old cellphones, and printer cartridges.
In addition to this, as a LEED certified structure, the majority of materials used for the building’s construction is recycled. The school also features plants not needing permanent irrigation, a waterless/water-efficient plumbing system that leads to a 41% reduction in water use, as well as many other sustainable features.
3. Great Seneca Creek Elementary School (Maryland)
As the first school in the state to receive certification as an eco-friendly school, Great Seneca Creek Elementary is a pioneer in Sustainable Maryland schools. The school’s bathrooms feature waterless urinals and motion-activated faucets that help conserve water. Even the little ones in kindergarten have bathrooms that use a dual-flush toilet system. The kids are taught about water conservation from a young age, using each button accordingly.
Each room’s ceiling is slanted to reflect light from the floor-to-ceiling windows, and is constructed from recycled wheat grass formed into boards (wheatboard) and bathroom dividers made from recycled bottles. Aside from Greening their curriculum, there are signs posted around the school letting the kids know about these Green features (i.e. the geothermal heating and cooling, turning lights off when not in use, etc).
4. Samuel J. Green Charter School (New Orleans)
Samuel J. Green is one of 4 First Line Schools in New Orleans that inspire hope and environmental awareness in their students. The open admission public charter school was inspired by Alice Water’s Edible Schoolyard program and was a way to educate kids and adults about healthful and sustainable eating, as well as to serve as a means to bring together people after Hurricane Katrina. The Edible Schoolyard curriculum is designed to “connect students with the Earth, the environment, and an eclectic group of adults outside their traditional classroom.” Samuel Green then became the model school for the Edible Schoolyard New Orleans program (ESY NOLA) established in 2006.
The Edible Schoolyard program makes kids’ lives, learning, and eating habits Greener. By involving children in planting, growing, and harvesting their organic produce and teaching them how to cook healthy meals, children learn early about ways to improve their lives and the environment. These activities are integrated into their curriculum through nutrition, biology, math, and the social sciences. Additionally, gardening and cooking enhances their senses and social skills while encouraging a learning environment that “promotes a sense of pride and responsibility for our land and natural resources.”
5. College of the Atlantic (Maine)
The College of the Atlantic in Maine prides itself in being recognized as the greenest college in the country. Located in Bar Harbor, Maine, this college is committed to sustainability from the courses it offers to the food they serve in the cafeteria.
The school’s cafeteria serves vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore options that are all organic, and sourced from local farms and the college’s organic community gardens. Scrap food is put to compost in order to feed the gardens. The dormitory compound features 3 triple- story duplexes with a boiler running on renewable wooden pellets to serve as the primary heat source, while all buildings are fitted with composting toilets that feed the surrounding landscape. In this way the College of the Atlantic serves to fully educate our youth on ways to live free of carbon footprint concerns and as proof that Green living a is a tangible possibility.
Teaching our kids to live a Green life is important, and if all of our nation’s schools were to follow the examples of these leaders in sustainable education, there’s no doubt that a completely sustainable and green future will come sooner than previously anticipated. To help the cause, approach your local schools and ask them to take measures towards environmentally sound practices, especially if they are planning a remodel or to build any new structures.
Maxine is a mother and wife who is dedicated to going green. The more she has learned, the more important she has seen it is for her family’s health and well-being as well as that of the earth. When not with her family, she works for Treetopia, a seller of artificial Christmas trees. They sell a variety of unique and inspired Christmas trees for every style.