Greener Schools, Better Schools
The "Healthy Schools, Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities" workshop took a complete look at what makes a school green and the work being done to make our schools healthier and safer. One of the topics tackled was the prevalence of PCBs in schools, and the efforts being made to ensure our schools are safe places for students, teachers, and support staff. The PCBs in schools, particularly older districts, may come from ballasts in older lights. New York Lawyers for the Public Interest estimates that 25 million lights are old and at risk for containing these chemicals. To replace those 25 million lights, they estimate that 19,000 jobs would be created.
Mark Bishop from the Healthy Schools Campaign, a national organization based out of Chicago, focused on environmental justice and expanding awareness of green schools.
"Let's raise the floor, so we can have a safe and healthy environment for all," Bishop said. "We have to make sure health and environment are recognized as an intrinsic part of a quality education."
Gretchen Gigley, the Director of Eduation for The Clean Air Campaign, spoke on how transportation figures into the green schools mix. They have developed a menu of programs aimed at reducing parents idling their engines while waiting for their kids to get done with school, advocating for riding the bus or carpooling, and creating lesson plans focused on cleaning the air. "This an an opportunity to educate students and empower them at their schools," said Gigley.
Green Ribbons Schools -- a program of the U.S. Department of Education to recognize schools efforts to become greener -- were also a topic of discussion. The three pillars of Green Ribbon Schools are environmental impact/energy efficiency, healthy school environment, and environmental education. Schools that qualify as Green Ribbon Schools are schools that have achieved excellence in those three categories.
"Even in America, the richest country in the world, we're sending kids to schools that were built in the 1800s," said Sean Miller from Earth Day Network. "Every kid in America deserves to go to a healthy school. Let's get going on that."
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