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Bill Orr and CHPS Go Back to Green Schools

The Top 10 Things You Can Do to Make High Performance Schools a Reality in Your Community


Bill Orr, CHPS Executive Director
September CHPS E-bulletin - Week 2 of 4

It’s back to school time, which means a fresh start for implementing a high performance school program on your campus or in your district. The CHPS staff put on our best thinking caps to brainstorm the most relevant, valuable, and cost-effective tactics for schools and districts. Here are our top ten strategies for making healthy, green, high performance schools a reality in your community:

1. Establish a Green Team Whether you are considering a whole campus green master plan or an enhanced recycling program, your school or district will need a green team to get the work done. The team should be made up of key constituents who will be involved in setting and implementing policy. Students, teachers, key staff members, as well as members of the school community, should be involved to create buy-in and maximize community involvement. For more on the high performance school implementation roadmap, download the CHPS Planning volume.

2. Benchmark Your Indoor Air Quality We’ve all heard it before, but the facts are worth repeating: children are a vulnerable population, and most children spend most of their days in schools. Focusing on indoor air quality in school buildings is critical for protecting the health and learning of students. The US EPA offers some of the most comprehensive free tools out there for improving your indoor environment. Top of the list is IAQ Tools for Schools, which includes a comprehensive IAQ action item checklist and district implementation guide, and Healthy SEAT (School Environments Assessment Tool), a software tool that allows facilities personnel to track health and safety conditions across a district. CHPS offers the Operations Report Card (ORC), a tool integrates occupant surveys and in-classroom environmental testing to benchmark indoor air quality, and recommend improvements.

3. Know Your School’s Energy Performance Benchmarking energy use at your school is the first step to reducing demand. A great place to start is US EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, an interactive energy management tool that allows you to track and assess energy consumption across your entire portfolio of buildings in a secure online environment. Participation in Portfolio Manager is required for the energy portion of the CHPS Operations Report Card, so signing up for the program is a great way to get started on greening your existing schools.

4. Register Your Next School Project for CHPS Verified Starting a new construction or major modernization/renovation project in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Texas or Virginia? Register your project with CHPS Verified to get assistance with and verification of your high performance features, as well as recognition (including a CHPS plaque!) that is critical in so many communities. CHPS Verified will be coming to Connecticut later this fall and Hawaii in 2012. Schools in New York, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Washington can also seek recognition through our CHPS Partners.

5. Understand and Reduce Your School’s Transportation Use Transportation is schools’ greatest impact on global climate change. Understanding and monitoring greenhouse gas emissions, such as CO2, CH4, N2O, HFCs, PFCs, and SF6, can be a powerful tool to reducing waste and inefficiency. A school’s contribution to climate change begins with the impact of materials and resources used in the construction, or modernization of the school. It continues through the operation of building systems, and transportation choices to and from school. Whether your school is seeking CHPS recognition or not, you can use the CHPS School/District Transportation Plan is to create a three-year program to reduce peak hour trips and GHG emissions.

6. Get a Free School Membership to CHPS Did you know that CHPS membership for schools and districts is free? You can receive all the benefits of paid CHPS members, and gain access to the tools and resources needed to design, construct, modernize and operate high performance educational facilities. Free membership is available to public school districts (district level participation required); county offices of education; private schools; charter schools; and charter school networks.

7. Make Your Next Product Purchase a Green Product Every purchase made in a school is an opportunity to improve the indoor environment or reduce environmental impacts and educate students about purchasing choices. Can you find a product with recycled content or renewable materials? Can you source it locally? Can you find a less toxic product or one that doesn’t off-gas harmful chemicals? For building products, look no further than the CHPS High Performance Product Database, for a variety of products and environmental attributes. The state of California also offers a green product database, and EPA has its own Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Guide and Database. Overwhelmed with the number of products and environmental attributes available? Commit to buying green in one area, such as only purchasing low-VOC paint.

8. End the Season for Your School Garden Gardens promote learning about healthy foods, the environment and natural systems. Siting a garden is just the beginning. Keeping it growing and central to the school community is an ongoing challenge, and should be considered alongside other critical operations and maintenance tasks. As winter approaches, garden beds should be prepped for the cold months to ensure their productivity in the spring. Check out this video, or other resources like Gardens for Learning - Creating and Sustaining Your School Garden or Keep It Growing Guide (PDF), from School Garden Wizard, to keep your garden growing.

9. Ready Your School for When Solar Rivals Coal Reports are now saying that large-scale solar arrays are rivaling coal in cost of installation. As the cost of solar goes down, and the cost of coal and energy goes up, the most cost-effective sources of energy for schools will radically change. Will your school be ready for this change in five, ten or twenty years? Using the model of the FLEX Energy Tool, developed for Colorado CHPS but appropriate for all geographic locations, school planners can ensure that they are not designing out renewable energy solutions for the future.

10. Keep Learning Three Wednesdays a month, CHPS offers a free webinar on our various programs. Participants are encouraged to ask questions and get in-depth knowledge in three areas: the basics of CHPS, the Operations Report Card and CHPS Verified. This is your chance to talk with CHPS staff and ask the hard questions on implementing high performance schools. Check out the complete schedule of webinars and CHPS trainings here.

September 12, 2011 (Sacramento, CA) Bill Orr and the staff of CHPS give our best back to school tips so that kids can get back to green schools ~order=2011-09-12
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