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The Rise of Green Schools

Green schools around the globe recognize the value of education in transforming how communities think about and live in the world. Their method is to prepare youth for the real challenges that lie ahead, including a future impacted by the effects of climate change and resource scarcity and how to protect it!

Green Schools explore the interdependence of human and natural systems. Through a rigorous pre-college curriculum, they develop citizens and leaders engaged in finding peaceful and sustainable solutions to local and global challenges. Green Schools allow students to learn naturally. Students of Green Schools grow academically and socially, become environmental stewards and learn to actively manage the limited resources we share as a global community. Green Schools provide direct experiences in nature along with the latest in environmental science and technology.

A green school is about more than curriculum, more than programming and more than bricks and mortar. It’s a school that supports global sustainability in every way. A green school begins with the future in mind, designing a learning experience for students that will prepare them to lead the world toward a healthier, cleaner, more sustainable future.

The Whole School Sustainability framework describes what successful green schools have learned about how to make this sustainability thinking stick. It explains that, in these schools, the educational program, physical place and organizational culture all support sustainability, and that each aspect of the school does its important part in making the whole picture work.

So, how do we know if it’s working? This is where the three pillars of a green school come in. While the Whole School Sustainability framework describes what a green school looks like, the three pillars of a green school explain how to measure progress. The three pillars were first introduced when the U.S. Department of Education launched the ED-Green Ribbon Schools award program in 2011. Since then, over 60 organizations have adopted the basic measurement framework that they present:

  • Reduced environmental impact

  • Increased health and well-being

  • Increased environmental and sustainability literacy for all graduates

These three pillars are the measurable success metrics for green schools, and they make a real impact on both global sustainability and individual student and teacher health. Reducing environmental impact includes reducing energy and water use, cutting back on fossil fuel used in transportation, reducing waste headed to landfill and protecting natural habitats. These actions have an effect on humans and the Earth. Green schools incorporate green technology in architecture and power generation to show students the effects in real life terms of embracing sustainable living.

Protecting student and teacher health includes ensuring a clean and healthy indoor environment in the school, as well as providing programs and services for good nutrition and physical activity. Paying attention to health in schools has an impact on well-being and learning. Green School students spend time outdoors as part of class curriculum because we know that exposure to daylight affects the production of important hormones that impact alertness and sleep/wake cycles.

Teaching students about sustainability and the environment gives them the tools they need to solve the global challenges we face now and in the future. Education that supports this type of literacy includes both curriculum and instructional practices that are interdisciplinary, place-based and rooted in the context that uniquely surrounds each student. This education impacts student understanding and action:

We know that increasing students’ environmental knowledge while also employing instructional practices that focus on interdisciplinary and place-based problem solving can influence behavior change toward sustainability! We know that students for whom the environment is a context for learning perform better on measures of general academic performance. They learn to think critically rather than by rote memorization. The National Association of Independent Schools Expanded N.A.I.S The Green Schools Initiative's “Four Pillars of a Green School” guidance on defining environmental sustainability in schools: green schools strive to be free of toxins; use resources sustainably; create a green, healthy place for children; and focus on environmental education and solutions. Green technology education is environmentally friendly by definition and the future of green technology seems bright since global investment in it has been increasing by 20% over the last few years in different sectors like energy, innovation, and manufacturing.

The value of green bonds issued worldwide increased dramatically in the last few years. In 2014, green bonds worth 37 billion U.S. were issued. In 2021, this figure peaked at 582 billion U.S. dollars. Sustainable bond issuance topped more than half a trillion dollars in the first six months of 2023, buoyed by record levels of green bond issuance, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Sustainable bond issuance from corporates and governments rose 18.6% compared to the same period in 2022.

The Greentech industry was valued at $9.57 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $41.62 billion by 2025, which is an impressive growth rate of about 20.3% over Five years. The global green technology and sustainability market size is was valued at USD 13.76 billion in 2022. The market is projected to grow from USD 16.50 billion in 2023 to USD 61.92 billion by 2030.


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