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Product: Green Building and Healthy Indoor Environmental Quality

Green Products: How Do I Find Them?

We have compiled a Green Building Resources Directory to help you navigate green building information: green school certification programs, green building products directories, green portable classrooms, and even carpet take-back programs. 

 To find these green products go to:

> Download Green Building Resources Directory

Criteria: How Do I Know It's Green?

There are many individual steps that can be taken to green your building, including siting your school with energy use in mind; reducing your energy use through purchasing energy-efficient lightbulbs and EnergyStar appliances; reducing water use with low flow toilets, showers and sinks and waterless urinals; improving air quality with low-emitting carpets, furniture and paints; purchasing recycling and compost bins for every room; and promoting creative play in outdoor spaces.

The following two rating programs certify school buildings as “green” and are aimed at new school construction, but can also provide guidelines and ideas for the repair or renovation of existing buildings.  Programs for certifying existing schools are under development. You can still make many green choices for maintaining and operating existing schools, and some counties in California will recognize schools as a Green Business if they take steps toward greening their existing school (see San Jose's example).

The green building universe is growing by the day and there are numerous product certification systems, green building materials databases and product lists. Programs like Green Seal, Green Guard, Environmental Choice or Green Label Plus certify that specific green building products – such as paint, furniture, carpets, insulation, or ceiling tiles – meet particular green standards such as low off-gassing or recycled content. We do not want to recreate that whole universe, rather we have compiled some of these resources in the Green Building Resources Directory (above).

LEED for Schools

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) developed the LEED certification program for green buildings. The LEED for Schools Rating System recognizes the unique nature of the design and construction of K-12 schools and addresses issues such as classroom acoustics, master planning, mold prevention and environmental site assessment. By addressing the uniqueness of school spaces and children’s health issues, LEED for Schools provides a comprehensive tool for schools that wish to build green, with measurable results. LEED for Schools is a third-party standard for high-performance schools that are healthy for students, comfortable for teachers, and cost-effective.  LEED certification provides teachers and the community with a “report card” for their school buildings—verifying that the school has been built to meet the highest level of performance. A LEED-certified architect will review the building plans for a fee and determine your rating and certification.

Collaborative for High Performance Schools

CHPS oversees the nation’s first green building rating program especially designed for K-12 schools. The CHPS Criteria is a comprehensive system of environmentally responsible benchmarks designed by the CHPS technical committee, which is made up of over fifty school facilities experts including state agency officials, designers, school district officials, contractors, product manufacturers and energy and water utility officials. A CHPS school is a school that strives to achieve excellence in environmental efficiency and healthy building practices. CHPS recognizes superior design teams and school districts through award ceremonies, case studies and media outreach. Schools can self-certify their school through the free CHPS Designed program, or seek third-party verification of their high performance school through the CHPS Verified program.

Costs: Can I Afford It?

In 2006 Greg Kats wrote a groundbreaking study, “Greening America’s Schools: Costs and Benefits,” demonstrating that green schools are a cost-effective way to control school maintenance and operation costs, improve test scores by enhancing student health, and reduce schools’ impact on the environment. This national review of 30 green schools demonstrates that green schools cost less than 2% more than conventional schools - or about $3 per square foot ($3/ft2) - but provide financial benefits that are 20 times as large. Greening school design provides an extraordinarily cost-effective way to enhance student learning, reduce health and operational costs and, ultimately, increase school quality and competitiveness.

Many green products like energy-efficient appliances, carpeting and paints are now competitively priced and many of these products are available at discounts through the California procurement process (See Green Buying Tools links).  There are also many resources available to subsidize green schools, with more coming all the time. Here are a few:

EMSI- GreenCap Program

One resource that is available to address the need for incremental funds to cover the added costs of designing and constructing schools is the Green Capital for Green Schools or GreenCap Program offered by EMSI. Through GreenCap, EMSI offers a variety of financing mechanisms to cover the incremental capital cost requires to design and build a green, high performance school. Together with its financial institution partners, EMSI helps school districts access public and private grants, equipment leases, build-own-operate financing, loans (including tax-exempt loans) and energy saving contracts.

California Proposition 1D

California voters approved a $100 million high performance school incentive package under Proposition 1D in November 2006. The funding is part of a larger $10.4 billion package to upgrade public schools, including kindergarten through twelfth grade, community colleges, and state universities. The high performance incentives will fund new construction, modernizations and relocatables that promote the efficient use of water, natural resources and energy, and also provide superior indoor air quality, acoustics, and lighting. Eligible school projects will be awarded incentives through the Office of Public School Construction (OPSC) on a first-come, first-serve basis until the funding runs out. For information and links to OPSC regulations: http://www.chps.net/Prop1D.htm

Williams Case Settlement: Emergency Repair Program

A class action lawsuit was brought against the State of California in 2000 arguing that the Department of Education failed to provide public school students with equal access to instructional materials, safe and decent school facilities, and qualified teachers.  The state settled the case in 2004.  As part of the settlement, up to $800 million was allocated to a school facilities Emergency Repair Program (ERP).  Williams Settlement funds may be used to make repairs at eligible low-performing schools, and repairs can be made using green building materials (though grants cover only replacement costs). ERP Grants are administered by the Office of Public School Construction.

21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act
In May 2009 the House of Representatives again passed the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act (H.R. 2187). This act commit $6.4 billion for FY2010 to help states build and renovate schools to improve schools’ teaching and learning climates, health and safety, and energy efficiency. H.R. 2187 would save school districts billions in energy costs while reducing asthma and other environmentally linked health problems. The legislation now must be considered by the Senate, where it failed to pass in 2008.

Tip: check out our “Greenbacks for Green Schools” compilation for more ideas on saving money by going green.

Beyond Buying: Other Environmentally Friendly Options

1.    Recycle or responsibly dispose of used building materials – carpet take-back programs, computer take-back programs, and county programs to recycle used cement, used paint, and other materials.

2.    Fix water leaks. Repair water leaks and leaky toilets. Install water aerators and automatic shut-off devices on faucets. Use low-flow shower heads and timer shut-off devices to reduce water use during showers. Install toilet dams on older models.

3.    Energy conservation programs – Promote a “turn it off” campaign and get teachers and kids involved with saving energy. Learn how with Alliance to Save Energy “Green Schools” Program.

Green Building Green Cleaners Green Food Services Green Papers Green Schoolyards Green Supplies
Why Buy Green?

Green Buying Tools

"Environmentally Preferable Purchasing" or "Green Purchasing" means integrating environmental and health factors into all procurement policies and decisions. Green purchasing can also save money, protect students and staff, and reduce liability—something schools everywhere should care about.

The following tools will help you get started:

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Disclaimer: Listing in this Directory should not be construed as a recommendation or endorsement by Green Schools Initiative or any of its supporters or partners. GSI is providing this information as a public service to promote the use of greener practices and products. Listings in this Directory are based on information obtained from the product manufacturer, supplier, or service provider in question, and may not be complete. GSI reviews the information obtained from these sources to determine if its meets our health and environmental criteria, but does not independently verify the information. GSI provides no warranty or guarantee of product performance, safety, price, or availability.