School pride has long been something kids take part in, especially as they grow older. Pep rallies, homecoming dances, basketball games against a vaunted nearby school — all great reasons to celebrate the little community they share with their peers. But in recent years, kids have expanded the definition of what school pride means to include caring for the environment.

Years before assuming her current position as the director of the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Center For Green Schools, Anisa Heming was employed by the council to help assist in the rebuilding of schools following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This experience taught Heming how much people value “doing the right thing” when it comes to their schools and community.

“It was really interesting what we saw there. Big diversity in what students, teachers, and leaders had pride in,” says Heming. “Pride in being part of a school where people do the right thing for the Earth, that’s another element of school pride.”

The facilities teams at schools are a lot more knowledgeable of practices that improve energy efficiencies, as well as everyday actions that help support the environment then they were just a few years ago, says Heming. Staff members, especially the younger ones, put a lot of energy into promoting greener initiatives. There are some schools where sustainability is at the root of the entire curriculum, not just science courses.

“They try to incorporate the issue into classes,” says Heming.

USGBC’s offices are in Washington, D.C. While working in this office, Heming has noticed just how active students have been in making their concerns for climate change heard, whether that be through a march or another activity.

“Students are definitely asking for it,” she says.

When it comes to sustainability in schools, there’s plenty of debate raging whether hand dryers are better for the environment than paper towels, and vice versa. USGBC doesn’t get involved in these discussions of which option is better. Instead, Heming praises the paper towels that are made and disposed of in a more environmentally-friendly fashion, as well as the hand dryers that are both energy efficient and made of the most environmentally-friendly materials. The products do have something in common though: either choice can be used to spread a message of sustainability via signage.

“When it comes to young students, the more visual you can get the better,” says Heming. 

The Center For Green Cleaning schools is currently promoting healthy and sustainable schools for children by installing hand dryers sporting messages for student to “go green,” along with images of green leafs  spread across the machine.

“We’re definitely proponents of having effective signage in schools,” says Heming. “If I’m talking directly to a manufacturer of one of these things (hand dryers or soap and paper dispensers) I’m telling them they can be the source of this message in a school.” 


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