Participants in the Healthy Green Schools & Colleges Program are guided by a maturity model that consists of five levels; each representing a stage in the journey towards fully integrating health and sustainability into everyday facility operations: 

Level 1 - No Maturity/Not Started: At this stage, there are no clear processes, guidelines, or benchmarks. The institution may be unaware of the need or has not begun any efforts towards integration. 

Level 2 - Initial/Ad Hoc: Recognized need for action has led to the beginning of changes. However, efforts are inconsistent, informal, and often reactive, with success largely dependent on individual initiative. 

Level 3 - Defined/Managed: The institution has established clear processes and standards. There is noticeable progress with consistent practices and an understanding of their effectiveness. Activities are actively managed. 

Level 4 - Managed/Measured: Processes are not only clear but also monitored and measured. Data is utilized for informed decisions and proactive improvements, focusing on data-driven management. 

Level 5 - Full Maturity/Embedded: Processes are fully integrated into the institution's culture, structure, and operations. The system is self-sustaining with continuous improvement, optimized practices, and adaptability to changing conditions. 

A maturity model in educational settings functions as a roadmap, marking milestones from initial steps to advanced sustainability achievements. It's not just about implementing eco-friendly practices, but about embedding them into the culture, curriculum, and everyday operations.  

Integrating Health and Sustainability 

In the Healthy Green Schools & Colleges maturity model, there are 10 key factors necessary for successfully implementing change. These factors can each be given a level of maturity for any aspect of an institution's pursuit of integrating health and sustainability as part of day-to-day facility operations and management. 

The factors are as follows:  

Clear Vision and Objectives: This factor is defined as having a comprehensive vision for integrating health and sustainability as part of day-to-day facility operations and management, with defined outcomes and reasons for change. Having a clear vision and objectives is a key component required to provide direction and create unity, inspire and sustain engagement, and guide decision-making and focus.  

Effective Communication: Effective communication is all about successfully conveying the vision and objectives for integrating health and sustainability into facility operations and management to all stakeholders. Effective communication is critical for fostering understanding support, alleviating resistance and anxiety, and promoting engagement and collaboration.  

Leadership Commitment: Leadership commitment is all about dedication from district/institution leaders and school administrators to drive changes, moving from ideas to implementation, from disparate and ad hoc projects to a coordinated, consistent strategy. It is important for establishing vision and guidance, ensuring resource availability and support, and cultivating credibility and trust.  

Staff Engagement: Staff engagement is the active, meaningful, and generative involvement of staff in a change process. Staff engagement is necessary for enhancing buy-in and reducing resistance, leveraging expertise and insight, and fostering a collaborative culture.  

Adequate Resources: Having adequate resources means the necessary resources, including funds, personnel, and technology, are available and allocated to support changes. Adequate resources are critical to ensuring effective implementation, supporting staff and student needs, and building confidence and commitment.  

Change Champions: Change champions are individuals who motivate others and help drive initiatives. Change champions are necessary for facilitating peer-to-peer influence and support, enhancing communication and understanding, and building momentum and sustaining engagement.  

School Culture: This factor is defined as the prevailing attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors around accepting and driving or rejecting and resisting change. School culture plays a pivotal role in the success of change initiatives by facilitating acceptance and adoption of change, enhancing collaboration and shared vision, and sustaining long-term change and growth.  

Evaluation and Improvement: Evaluation and improvement is defined as the regular assessment of progress and adjustments to strategies to integrate health and sustainability as part of day-to-day facility operations and management. It is necessary  to monitor progress and measure impact, identify areas for improvement, and foster a culture supportive of change.  

Organizational Structure: This factor evaluates the structural elements of an institution that can promote or hinder collaboration, progress, and change. These include processes for collaboration, decision-making, resource allocation, feedback, training, determining priorities, facilitating engagement, and structures for providing recognition and accountability. Organizational structure can influence an institution’s capacity to facilitate collaboration and communication, support agile and informed decision-making, and aligning resources with strategic goals.  

Stakeholder Relationships: This factor is about the process of engaging those critical to supporting overall efforts to integrate health and sustainability as part of day-to-day facility operations and management (e.g., teachers, staff, students, parents, vendors, local government agencies, community organizations, partners, etc.). It is critical to gaining broad-based support and input, facilitating effective implementation and sustainability, enhancing communication, and building trust.   

Adopting a maturity model approach to integrating health and sustainability into educational facility operations offers a structured, strategic path towards transformative change. By understanding where they stand and what steps are needed for progress, educational institutions can effectively navigate the complexities of organizational change — paving the way for a healthier, more sustainable future for our students, staff, and communities.  

Sara Porter has worked with Healthy Schools Campaign for 15 years. She currently serves as director of Healthy Green Schools & Colleges, a program that helps K12 and higher education institutions identify and implement low- and no-cost measures that improve indoor air quality, among other initiatives. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from DePaul University. 


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