Green Schools Prepare Students for 21st Century Challenges

LangleyRitzThe Pittsburgh region’s health and vitality is inextricably connected to the quality and effectiveness of our education system. Not only is it critical to fostering the homegrown talent that makes our region thrive, but it also cultivates employees and citizens who are prepared to tackle 21st century challenges. “Green schools” can help transform our schools into places that are good for students, good for the environment, and good for the economy.

By embedding sustainability into K-12 education, we can ensure that schools are healthy and high performing places of learning that have reduced operating costs and environmental impact; are healthy places for students and staff; and prepare students to think and work in ways that connect them with college and career pathways while actively engage their communities.

A high performing school is one that works at peak performance, where buildings are clean, comfortable, well-ventilated, and resource-efficient. In addition to the reduced environmental impact on our air, water, and limited natural resources, green schools makes good financial sense, too. Utility bills are often the second-largest school budget line item (after employee costs), so saving on energy, water, and waste disposal is good management of taxpayer resources.

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Student and staff health matters, too. Sick kids are in school less and perform worse, leaving students behind their peers and unable to compete in today’s marketplace. Sick kids can also be an increased burden on our health care system, while simultaneously reducing the productivity of working parents. The healthier the school can be by focusing on good indoor air quality, healthy food, plentiful physical and outdoor activity, and social and emotional well-being, the better our students will learn and better citizens they will become.

The Pittsburgh region needs its K-12 schools to excel and be innovative in their approaches to creating students who will propel us forward while addressing future realities of the rapidly changing global economy, climate change, and resource scarcity in an interconnected world. Sustainability recognizes the complexity of system relationships between the economy, people, and our environment, creating ways for all to thrive as a unified system: reduced costs, improved health and performance, and thriving citizens and business leaders of tomorrow.

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