The Go Green Initiative is a global environmental education program that trains teachers and volunteers in schools to conserve natural resources for future generations and protect human health through environmental stewardship. They provide free and continual instruction for volunteers in all 50 U.S. states and 73 countries, teaching them to integrate environmental education into existing curriculum and quantify the environmental impact of their conservation efforts.
When Jill Buck served as the PTA Council President for Pleasanton, California, she became concerned about the amount waste being generated at her children’s schools, and the use of unsafe pesticides around playgrounds in the community. Buck decided to take action.
She researched environmental education programs in hope of finding one that she could bring back to her children’s school. Buck concluded that there was no comprehensive environmental action program anywhere in the country that would help school communities operate in an environmentally responsible manner. So, she wrote one. In July 2002, she created the Go Green Initiative on her kitchen table.
Since its inception in 2002, the Go Green Initiative has been endorsed by the National School Boards Association, National Recycling Coalition, adopted by numerous State PTA Boards, implemented in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, along with schools in Canada, Mexico, Asia, Europe and Africa. There are currently over 1.5 million students and teachers in registered Go Green schools.
The Go Green Initiative Association is a non-profit organization that seeks to provide every school the opportunity to protect the environment and children’s health through environmentally responsible behaviors. The GGIA provides training and resources for Go Green schools and serves as a clearinghouse for information on environmental education programs throughout the country.
“It’s not enough to prepare our children for the future…. We must prepare the future for our children.”Jill Buck
Founder of the Go Green Initiative
There are two types of air quality that impact schools: indoor and outdoor. Indoor air quality (IAQ) is largely a function of the ventilation of the school and the chemicals introduced into the air. Though much attention has been paid to improving outdoor air quality, and rightly so, the EPA has found that IAQ can be much more toxic that outdoor air quality. Even students and teachers with no respiratory ailments can be adversely affected by poor IAQ, but those with asthma and allergies can be particularly miserable in schools with polluted air. Optimal learning environments are those where all the inhabitants can breathe easily, both indoors and out.
Do you know how much money your school spends on energy? Could that money be better used in the classroom, library or computer lab if your school became more energy efficient? Some schools are quick to invest in renewable energy projects like solar without first reducing inefficiencies in how they consume energy. This can result in putting up more renewable energy generation capacity than they need (or can afford). The first place to start in making your school energy smart is with energy efficiency projects, like updated lighting, HVAC systems, and insulation. Involving students in tracking the amount of energy saved is a great way to incorporate STEM into the everyday culture of the campus.
Water is a precious resource that we cannot live without, but it is also a utility cost that is not related to educational enrichment. The more water your school uses, the more money flows away from learning. Naturally, there are necessary water uses on campus, but leaky pipes, faulty irrigation systems, and outdated, high-flow water fixtures are unnecessarily wasteful. For communities facing drought conditions, efforts to be “water wise” are tantamount to being a good neighbor, but for communities with ample fresh water supplies, such efforts may not be front-burner issues. Nonetheless, the Go Green Initiative embraces the old saying, “Waste not. Want not.” In order to preserve our fresh water, it is important not to waste it or introduce pollutants that cannot be removed.
RECYCLING AND WASTE
Look in the dumpster behind a typical school, and you will likely see a tremendous amount of material that must be removed from campus and placed somewhere else in the community. Some of it may be recyclable, some of it may end up in a landfill, and some of it may not have been needed in the first place. Most schools/school districts pay a considerable amount of money to have unwanted material hauled away from campus, so when schools reduce the amount of waste they generate, they can save money that can be used on educational uses vs. utility costs. Communities also benefit, because reducing school waste can increase the lifespan of local landfills and avoid the taxpayer burden of building new ones. The Go Green Initiative has been helping schools reduce waste and increase recycling since 2002, and we can help your school, too!
Most schools serve lunch, and many serve breakfast, too. There are scores of factors to consider when planning school meals, not the least of which are cost and nutrition. Embedded in the categories of cost and nutrition are issues such as: the energy cost of trucking pre-packaged food over long distances; the cost to dispose of food students don’t eat; the nutritional value of organic vs. pesticide-laden foods; etc. Some of the most important lessons we can teach students about resource conservation and environmental stewardship may very well be taught around the school lunch table.
One of the key components of the mission of the Go Green Initiative is to protect children’s health through environmental stewardship. At our core, we are a child advocacy organization that recognizes the health threat that environmental pollution and degradation pose to young people. Schools play a critical role in protecting students’ health by being mindful of the use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals around the school, eliminating sources of indoor air pollution, and working with the surrounding community to reduce the chance that water, soil and food is contaminated. Schools with active parent/teacher groups, such as PTA’s, can unite efforts at home and at school to keep kids healthy.
During times of community duress, schools are often central locations that provide comfort and shelter. As local cities and counties begin to develop plans to address extreme weather conditions, increased risks of forest fires, and intermittent infrastructure failures most likely to be associated with climate change, it is probable that schools will be one of the public assets that is crucial to climate adaptation solutions. Schools are also pivotal for communities looking to mitigate climate change by lowering CO2 emissions. Schools can reduce CO2 emissions by using less carbon-intense energy, reducing CO2 involved in transporting students, and purchasing fewer items that must be transported over long distances to reach the school.