What is a Green School?

A Green School is a school that creates a healthy environment conducive to learning, while saving energy, environmental resources, and money.

A green school
1. reduces environmental impacts and costs
2. improves occupants’ health and performance
3. increases environmental and sustainability literacy

Center for Green Schools

Bottle Refill Station at BLS
Green Cleaners
Green Apple Day of Service

Characteristics of a Green School

Green, healthy, and high-performance schools provide many benefits for students, teachers, parents and the community, including:

Protect Health
Asthma is the primary cause of poor school attendance, and schools with poor indoor air quality usually have numerous asthma precursors. Schools built with more daylighting, better ventilation, and healthy green building materials, like non-VOC carpets and paints, are healthier for students and staff, and result in fewer sick days.

Increase Student Performance
A lack of fresh air can reduce student attentiveness. Studies have shown that student test scores can improve up to 20% when kids learn in green classrooms that have more daylighting, improved classroom acoustics, and healthier paints and carpets that don’t release toxic chemicals into the air.

Save Energy, Save Money
Operating costs for energy and water in a green school can be reduced by 20% to 40%, directing more funding towards teacher salaries, textbooks, and computers.
Reduce Carbon Emissions
Green schools significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Building 34 new green schools in Los Angeles alone would reduce 94,000 tons of CO2 — the equivalent of eliminating more than 15,000 cars from the road every year, or planting more than 280,000 trees.
Reduce Water Usage
On average, a green school reduces water usage by 32%. This reduction has direct savings for the building, as well as substantial societal benefits, such as reducing stormwater runoff, and transporting and treating wastewater.
Improve Teacher Retention
A green school can reduce teacher turnover by as much as 5%, which improves student learning and school community, and can result in financial savings for the school.
Improve Daily Attendance
Students in green schools are absent less frequently. By reducing absenteeism just 15%, a typical elementary school would save $40,000 to $60,000.
Provide A Unique Educational Opportunity
Buildings can become teaching tools and important features of science, math, and environmental curriculum when green features and advanced technology and design in schools are used to excite kids about learning real world applications of green technologies. BPS is committed to using schools and schoolyards as living laboratories
Create Green Jobs
Investing in building green schools is an investment in green jobs, including green construction, building product manufacturing, and green architecture.
Improve Equity
Greening public schools creates an opportunity to improve the health and educational settings for all students, while taking into account students’ diverse identities and needs.

Check out the Center for Green School’s: green school programs or the Every School Can Be A Green School: Getting Started Checklist.

Visit the Center’s resources page for a full list of research papers, case studies, and green school reports.


The Whole-School Sustainability Framework is founded on the imperative that in order to be successful, sustainability requires a whole-system approach.

A Whole-School Sustainability approach requires individuals from across an organization to work together—it cannot be accomplished in a silo. This system framework is organized into the three components of schools: organizational culture, physical place, and educational program. Within these three components, total of nine principles have been identified.


Center for Green Schools

U.S. Green Building Council selected Boston Public Schools as a recipient of the 2019-2020 School District Scholarship, a program run by the Center for Green Schools. BPS was one of five districts selected nationally. The Green Schools Scholarship was valued at $20,000 and included fully paid professional development opportunities at the Greenbuild Conference and Expo, the Green Schools Conference and Expo, and the School Sustainability Leaders’ Summit for BPS Sustainability and Environmental Resources Manager Katherine Walsh. Scholars also benefited from ongoing coaching from experts in the field, their peers, and a broader group of sustainability professionals who participate in the School Sustainability Leaders Network. Throughout the year, the Scholars (and through them, the district) took advantage of complimentary access to curriculum and training resources such as Learning Lab, the Green Classroom Professional Certificate, and a LEED coach. 


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