The Importance of Green Schools

What is a Green School? 

A high-performance green school is an energy-, material- and resource-efficient education facility optimized for the health and productivity of its occupants and users.  It is designed, constructed and operated to the greatest extent possible within the carrying capacity of the planet.  

Knowing the Facts About
Green Schools

The Center for Green Schools at USGBC has published a white paper titled Knowing the Facts: Green Schools.  To access this timely document, click here

Why are Green Schools important?

With utility costs continuing to rise, school budgets are under severe pressure throughout our region.  Green schools cost less to operate, freeing up resources to truly improve students’ education.  

The quality of educators and curriculum are the most important factors in a student’s scholastic performance, but the quality of school facilities – where students learn – is often overlooked. School buildings can enhance a student’s ability to learn by keeping them healthy, attentive and present.  To learn more about why green schools are important -- click here.

Rachel Gutter on the USGBC Center for Green Schools

Learn Green

The USGBC South Florida Chapter participated in the 2013 Learn Green Conference and Expo on November 11. Pictured above are the Chapter's own Diane Evans, keynote speaker Steve Ritz
(the GreenBronx Machine), and Kira Lake with Florida Public Utilities.

Leaders in Sustainability Report

The Local Leaders in Sustainability: a special report from Sundance, outlines a national action plan that mayors and local leaders can use as a framework to develop and implement green schools initiatives.  The report also provides a comprehensive review of the benefits of green schools; a summary of local, state and federal policy solutions; leadership profiles of green school advocates; and case studies from both large cities and small communities.  Together, these resources serve as a roadmap on the journey to green schools.

LEED Certified Schools in South Florida


LEED Registered Schools in
South Florida

Miami-Dade County:

  • Le Jardin Community Center, Homestead
  • St. Stephen's Episcopal Day School, Miami
  • State School HHH-1, Miami
  • Gateway Environmental K-8 Learning, Homestead, EBOM
  • The Montessori Academy at St. Johns, Miami Beach

Broward County:

  • Pine Crest Upper School Classroom Building, Ft. Lauderdale
  • Stranahan High School, Ft. Lauderdale

Palm Beach County:

  • Everglades Elementary School, West Palm Beach
  • Plumosa School of the Arts, Delray Beach
  • Northboro Elementary, Palm Beach Gardens
  • AD Henderson School Classroom Exp., Boca Raton
  • Galaxy Elementary School Modernization, Boynton Beach
  • Manatee Elementary School, Lake Worth
  • Pahokee Middle School, Pahokee
  • SAS Campus, Boca Raton
  • Seminole Trails Elementary Classroom Addition, West Palm Beach
  • Western Boca Areas ES 05-C, Boca Raton, EBOM
  • SAS Lower School Renovation, Boca Raton, EBOM

Treasure Coast:

  • LPA Cafeteria, Ft. Pierce
  • LPA Classroom Building, Ft. Pierce
  • LPA Master Site, Ft. Pierce

Green Schools Challenge

The Green Schools Challenge (GSC) is Dream in Green’s flagship program. Currently in its seventh year, it serves more than 160,000 K-12 students, teachers and staff members in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth largest school district in the nation. The program educates students about environmental and energy challenges by getting them involved in real-world, no-cost solutions at their schools and at home. During the program's first six years, participating students saved $4.5 million in energy costs and conserved 9.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity through simple initiatives like turning off lights and unplugging electronics. Combined with other green projects like planting trees and recycling, the program has helped to reduce or offset 22.5 million pounds of carbon emissions. Over the years, countless students have applied the lessons of the GSC at home and in their communities, magnifying the positive impact of the program.

Dream in Green is a South Florida-based nonprofit organization that partners with schools, local governments and businesses to address the challenge that climate change poses to the South Florida community. Dream in Green has been inspiring and empowering youngsters to take action and become part of the solution, and the USGBC South Florida Chapter is proud to partner with and support the Green School Challenge and Dream in Green.

What Can You Do at Your 
School District or Campus?

• First of all, create a team of representatives from all groups and departments to brainstorm and discuss green strategies ... and implement curriculum that deals specifically with sustainability.

• Sell your school board and administration on energy-efficiency projects by demonstrating results and using metrics that they can understand such as relating green change to the number of teacher salaries per upgrade.  For example, "We can pay for "x" number of teacher salaries with the savings" is language that school Boards, elected officials and parents can understand.

• Implement sustainable operation and maintenance strategies such as green cleaning and recycling programs. 

• Pay particular attention to upgrades that allow flexibility in the future.

• Take advantage of opportunities to demonstrate and teach students how to live more energy efficiently.  In university and college settings, work with the student life office to get out the green message.  You'll be pleasantly surprised how many of our campuses already have a student green group already in place.  Utilize your biggest, least expensive resource by getting students involved. They may very well have already started green projects.

Green Competitions for Schools

• National Junior Solar Sprint/Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car Competitions-- This DOE program challenges student teams in grades 6-8 to construct model solar and hydrogen fuel cell cars.

• Campus Conservation Nationals is a nationwide resource use-reduction competition that challenges college and university campuses to achieve the greatest electricity and water use reductions during a 3-week period.  Race back to a Gigawatt!

• National Science Bowl -- This DOE-sponsored academic competition brings teams of high school students together to answer questions on scientific topics in astronomy, biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, earth, computer and general science.

• Council of Educational Facility Planners, International (CEFPI) Design Competition -- This annual competition (open to middle school students) challenges students to design their schools to enhance learning, conserve resources, be environmentally responsive, and engage the surrounding community.

• Igniting Creative Energy Challenge -- This educational competition encourages K-12 students to learn more about energy and the environment.

• ExploraVision -- This competition, administered by the National Science Teachers Association, encourages K-12 students to create technologies of the future.

• JETS: Junior Engineering Technical Society -- This annual engineering design competition challenges students in grades 9-12 to design and build an assistive technology device to help a person with severe disabilities succeed in his or her workplace.

• The Real World Design Challenge (Grades 9-12) -- This annual event provides high school students, grades 9-12, the opportunity to work on real world engineering challenges in a team environment.

Green Schools Spotlight

February's Spotlight shines on Believer's Academy in West Palm Beach. Students, teachers and administrators at Believer’s Academy wanted to do more to reduce their carbon footprint. They began by working with the Green Schools Committee of the USGBC South Florida Chapter and sought to get contacts and information about recycling. We put them in touch with Dmitriy Shvets, Sustainability Program Coordinator with the City of West Palm Beach, who provided them with recycling bins and tips for recycling and where to drop off recycled materials. We commend their efforts and look forward to hearing more success stories from them.

This is a monthly article. If you know a school, teacher, student, parent or administrator that deserves to be recognized, please contact Elena Gibson.

Green Apple Day of Service

The theme is simple. Our kids deserve better. Where they learn matters. 

For the second consecutive year, the volunteers with the USGBC South Florida Chapter gave support and energy to this cause. We are proud of our Branches, whose more than a half-dozen volunteer captains championed events throughout the South Florida region. To read more on these outstanding projects, click here.


Generation Green's 2014
Apple Awards

It's time for Generation Green 2014! This annual program and awards ceremony recognizes and honors individuals, classrooms, schools and Districts in the Treasure Coast region for their commitment to greening schools and our community. Generation Green 2014 is being held on Saturday, April 12, 2014 from 1-4pm at Citrus Grove Elementary School in Palm City, Florida.  Entries are now being accepted.  Click here for Guidelines and Entry Form.

Broward County P3

Application Dates: 02/03/2014 – 03/31/2014 

CPS traditional schools, administrators, teachers, students, and volunteers - get ready for the second annual P3 Eco- Challenge: Preserving Our Planet for Posterity. Online applications will be available from February 3 through March 31, 2014.

For more information, visit the STEM & Instructional Resources website! 

Read More »

Palm Beach County Green Schools Recognition Program

Deadline to Apply: March 7, 2014

At the Office of Sustainability, we are continuously looking for ways to help schools and educators integrate sustainability into their classrooms. We are expanding our support to the education community by launching the Green Our Schools initiative. A goal of this initiative is to have all of City of West Palm Beach schools participating in and taking advantage of the resources provided by the Palm Beach County Green Schools Recognition program (for more information on this program please see the “About the PBC Green Schools Recognition Program” section below). Given that this is a new initiative, we will be gauging interest in this program and using it to determine the level of assistance to provide to our local schools.

Assistance for West Palm Beach Schools

The City of West Palm Beach, Office of Sustainability will be assisting City public and private schools to help them get recognition for their green efforts and initiatives through the PBC Green Schools Recognition program. Whether you are applying for the first time or are a long time participant of the program we would be glad to assist you with the PBC Green Schools Recognition program’s application process and help you improve your standing within the program.

If you are interested in getting assistance with the PBC Green School Recognition program and your school is within the city limits of West Palm Beach, please reply to this email by Friday, December 20th, 2013 and include the following information:

  1. Your full name, job title, and contact information (office phone and email)
  2. Your principal's name and contact information (office phone and email)
  3. Your school's name and address
  4. The best times for us to contact you during the week

Our office will be following up with you via a call to discuss your needs and provide assistance. 

Assistance for Palm Beach County Schools (Note – West Palm Beach has it’s own assistance program for schools located in West Palm Beach)

If your school is not within the city limits of West Palm Beach and would like assistance with the PBC Green Schools Recognition program, please contact Susan Toth, Director of Education at Pine Jog Environmental Education Center, (561) 686-6600 or email

About the PBC Green Schools Recognition Program 

The PBC Green Schools Recognition Program encourages cultures of sustainability within school communities. This program recognizes schools for taking a holistic approach to going green that incorporates school ground enhancement, resource conservation, curriculum connections, and community involvement with a school wide commitment and focus on sustainability. Incentives to participate in the program include: 1) Visibility as a model for sustainability in your community and among Martin and Palm Beach County schools, 2) Invitation to the Green School Awards Ceremony, 3) Top green schools will receive cash awards, 4) Award Banners for all Green Schools, 5) Certificates, 6) Media recognition, and 7) Green Seed Money 

To participate in the PBC Green Schools Recognition program, schools have to attend a PBC Green Schools Recognition workshop and submit a GSR application. Please note that this year’s GSR’s deadline to submit an application is March 10th, 2014.

EnviroScape Interactive Models 

Available to: City of West Palm Beach Schools

We have two EnviroScape models available for City of West Palm Beach teachers to borrow for free. EnviroScapes are highly interactive plastic models that provide a hands-on learning experience on environmental topics for students. The two models that we have available are: 1) a Watershed, Nonpoint Source, Stormwater Pollution and Prevention model, and 2) a Drinking Water Sources, Uses and Wastewater Treatment model. If you are interested in borrowing a model for use in your classroom, please contact us at or 561-804-4994. 

Sustainability Teacher Kits

Available to: All Schools

The City of West Palm Beach Office of Sustainability offers 4 types of sustainability kits that teach water conservation, energy conservation, environmental awareness and connect students with the outdoors. These kits come complete with lesson plans and are available for check-out at the 3rd Floor-Kidspace in the Mandel Public Library on 411 Clematis Street in West Palm Beach.

For more information click here. Please note that you do not need to live in West Palm Beach to receive a library card and check out these kits. 

Online Resources for Teachers

Available to: All Schools

The City of West Palm Beach also offers additional resources to teachers online at the Office of Sustainability’s website. These include sustainability lesson plans and links to helpful resources for educators. For more information click here

PB County Green Schools Blog

Check out the new blog created for those interested in greening Palm Beach County Schools.  Created by Audrey Dalton, Chair of the Palm Beach Branch's Green Schools Committee, it offers a new twist on communications concerning this important initiative. Please send announcements, photos, etc., but only if they pertain to Palm Beach County Schools.

Green Schools Challenge

Application is open now. The GSC is free to Miami-Dade County Public Schools.  For more information on the Challenge, click here.

To join, contact Dream in Green or call 305-576-3500. To download the 2013/2014 Registration Application, click here.

Other Local Green Schools Websites

Information is power.  And green-building information is, seemingly, everywhere.  Below you will find links to resources to help you learn more about the importance of greening our schools, new and existing.  Many more can be found by searching such key words as high-performance green schools, healthy schools, LEED for Schools, energy-efficient schools, greening K12 curriculum, etc. 

If you wish to add a resource website to this listing, send your suggestion to Lee Cooke, our Chapter’s Executive Director.  Your submission will be vetted by the Chapter’s volunteer leadership.

The links provided below are shown for reference only.  The USGBC South Florida Chapter is not responsible nor can be held liable for any linked content, claims or representations within the websites listed.

Of course, we start our Green Schools Resources List with the US Green Building Council.  The USGBC provides a wealth of resources and education tied to this critically important subject.  Here are three outstanding pages well worth a click and your time:

Our region's respective school districts' green schools initiatives can be found by clicking below on the name of the district or the bullets underneath it.  If there is no hotlink provided, the Chapter hasn't sourced that particular district's website tied to green schools.  Please send requests regarding posts to Lee Cooke.

School districts in the following counties have not submitted green-schools websites:  Indian River, St. Lucie. Okeechobee, Martin, and Miami-Dade.

Palm Beach -- The PBCounty School District's Green Schools and Sustainability WebsiteThe PBCounty School District's Green Schools Recognition ProgramPBCounty Schools Go Green;
PBCounty's Green Schools Initiatives and Lessons Learned

Broward -- Broward County Schools -- Environmental Stewardship

Our State of Florida's green schools initiatives can be found here: Serve to Preserve; Sustainable Florida; Florida Green School Network

The Green Education Foundation provides lots of free, green curriculum, signage, etc., and is a terrific network for educators.

The Environmental Protection Agency has several webpages devoted to elementary-aged children, their parents and teachers:  Environmental Kids Club; Energy Star Kids

The US Department of Energy offers green energy K-12 lesson plans and activities that are downloadable here.  Topics include Energy Basics, Energy Efficiency and Conservation, Environment, Solar Energy and more.

The US Department of Energy also has an EnergySmart Schools section of its excellent website.  Also, check out:  Alliance to Save Energy's Green Schools Program; US Energy Information Administration -- Energy Kids

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