Congressional caucus formed to promote green schools

A new caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives has formed to raise awareness of and promote the benefits of green schools and their ability to foster learning, protect students' and teachers' health, save school districts' money and reduce their impact on the environment.

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff November 8, 2007

A new caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives has formed to raise awareness of and promote the benefits of green schools and their ability to foster learning, protect students’ and teachers’ health, save school districts’ money and reduce their impact on the environment.

With the active support of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Green Schools Caucus was created in October by founding co-chairs Rep. Darlene Hooley, D-Ore.; Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas; and Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah. The goals of the caucus are to raise awareness of the benefits of green schools, lead the policy discussion on the topic in various forums, create legislative opportunities for the collective efforts of the caucus members, and provide members of Congress with constituent outreach resources. Caucus members and their staff will participate in educational programs to learn what is going on nationally and in their districts, including site visits to green schools and educational panels with teachers, architects and school officials from across the country.

“As a former teacher, I am thrilled to lead the way in Congress in forming the Green Schools Caucus,” Hooley said. “Through collaborative partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council, we will work to raise awareness among the public and members of Congress of the benefits of building green. By using alternatives to toxic chemicals, pursuing green building and maintenance practices, changing resource consumption habits, serving nutritious food, and teaching students to be steward of their communities, we’ll help put future generations at the forefront of sustainable development.”

“Schools are vulnerable to the sky-rocketing costs of energy,” Matheson said. “When their energy budgets take a hit, kids’ education suffers. By encouraging green school buildings, we help save money, demonstrate the latest technology and increase educational opportunities for the kids who spend much of their day in that building.”

“The Green Schools Caucus is an outstanding opportunity to help our schools save money, help society save the environment and, ultimately and most importantly, help make sure our children are attending classes in the safest indoor environments possible,” McCaul said. “As a father of five children, making sure our children can learn in safe, clean and efficient schools has always been and always will be a top priority.”

Fully 20% of Americans go to school every day. Too often, the schools they attend are unhealthy, inefficient and not as conducive to learning as they could be. Green schools create a nurturing learning environment, decrease student and teacher absenteeism from respiratory and other illnesses, and provide models for teaching the world’s future leaders about sustainability to benefit communities for generations to come. They create new hands-on learning opportunities for students. And they save money through reduced water and energy bills. A 2006 study sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers, the American Institute of Architects, the American Lung Association, the Federation of American Scientists and USGBC found that building green would save an average school $100,000 each year in energy costs alone – enough to hire two additional full-time teachers, purchase 5,000 new textbooks, or buy 500 new computers. According to “Greening America’s Schools: Costs and Benefits, 2006,” it costs on average less than 2% more – about $3 extra per square foot – to build a green school rather than a conventional school. The payback occurs within one year based on energy savings alone.

For more information on green schools, including their benefits, resources for promoting green schools, and case studies of schools that have already gone green, visit .