GREEN SCHOOLS NATIONAL NETWORK Healthy, Sustainable Schools For The Futute Tue, 11 Feb 2014 20:57:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Youth is the Answer Wed, 15 Jan 2014 20:19:27 +0000 By Charles Orgbon

Teen CEO and founder of Greening Forward, Charles Orgbon III, will be delivering a keynote address at the Green Schools National Conference on how schools can create a culture of youth leadership. Engage with Charles on Twitter at @corgbon.

At this moment, there are more young people in the world than ever before – and they are all seemingly ready to make a difference: to change the world.

That – to me – screams world-changing potential, yet the environmental movement is massively squandering the talent of today’s young people.

Why aren’t young people on your board of directors? Why aren’t they in your focus groups, advisory panels, and media publications? Frankly, adults have not quite explored what meaningful youth engagement looks like. If we hope to ever solve complex issues like creating greener schools, climate change, and mass extinction, we must make room for all stakeholders at the decision-making table, especially young people.

Luckily, in the 2010 Teen Voice study sponsored by the Search Institute, Best Buy, and Weber Shandwick, we find the answer to the age-old question, “How do adults foster and encourage newer generations to make a difference in the world?” The report identifies three distinct characteristics in young people who have what it takes to effectively bring about change in their communities: passion, access to meaningful relationships, and voice. Adults play a critical role in each of these characteristics.


Everyone has a spark, represented by what we truly enjoy in life – whether it’s athletic, academic or social. When we look at young people focused on their life’s passion, we see that overall they are better prepared to become a leader in their community. The late Judy Bonds, a grassroots anti-coal mountaintop removal activist, reminded youth that, “The world is waiting on you to change it.” Adults can play a meaningful role in helping young people unlock their passion by introducing them to unique challenges and experiences.

Meaningful Relationships

Having a passion is a start, but if one’s mission is to really stand out and be a “purple cow” (as Seth Godin might call it), building meaningful relationships is essential. We all need role models to help us nourish our strengths and mitigate our weaknesses. Youth most often look up to the people who listen to them, are interested in them, challenge them – and laugh and learn with them.


Emerging leaders with a strong passion and support are ready to influence what matters to them, but if adults do not provide these young people with substantive leadership opportunities to share their voice, then their voice remains silenced. The first two themes of passion and meaningful relationships are prerequisites; it is then also up to adults to provide young people with opportunities and tools that allow them to drive the change they desire to see in the world.

For years, youth service-learning organizations have used results from the Teen Voice studies to consider how they might need to improve the focus of their organization.

Even more interesting is that these rules to engaging youth are applicable to many facets of our lives.

When we as a global community begin to foster this plan to give our youth opportunities to take on leadership roles in communities, assist in developing our youth’s strengths through meaningful relationships, and build the foundation to allow youth to express themselves, the benefits to societies are limitless.

Resolving our world’s issues should not be left up only to the so-called “experts.” The youth of today are motivated – right now – to become catalysts for change and they have value to add to community change-making.

And to do that, they will not only need passion, access to mentor relationships, and voice. They’ll need   the support of the generations that precede them.

Charles invites attendees to engage with him on Twitter @corgbon.

Charles Orgbon is the founder of Greening Forward, an organization supporting young environmental change-makers across the globe.  Greening Forward partners benefit from more than 120 curriculum resources, grant programs, skill-building tools, and mentorship opportunities as they work to effect environmental change at the local and global level. Currently, Greening Forward directly serves more than 2,000 young leaders who plan rallies, events, and workshops that engaged 10,000 other community members. Greening Forward youth are advocating for bike-friendly communities in Denver, bringing organic foods to low-income communities through aquaponics in the Makiki Valley, developing young leaders through capacity-building conferences in Atlanta, and protecting the Low Country’s vital estuaries in South Carolina. Learn more at
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Saving the planet and a few bucks in the bargain Tue, 17 Dec 2013 17:54:23 +0000 Green products should be Earth- and budget-friendly
By Brennan Cassidy

Most consumers, if given the choice, will go green – as long as that choice is good for their pocketbook as well as the planet.

That’s the premise behind EcoKable, an Earth-friendly technology company finding better and, yes, affordable solutions to the problem of e-waste. Our first product is a patent-pending USB cable to charge cell phones or other devices made with 100% natural cotton insulation and PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) from recycled water bottles.

Most of our lives today are filled with cables, as we charge this or transfer data to that — but while we know what’s on our smartphones or in our hard drive, what’s in the cables they’re attached to? And what happens when we upgrade and discard those cables?

Most of us understand that old computers, phones and drives end up as “e-waste” (electronic waste) that will sit in landfills for hundreds of years, or be incinerated or exported. The same is true for USB cables, most of which are made from toxic polyvinyl chloride, or PVC.

Our USB cable is the first step toward giving consumers more choice in environmentally-friendly electronics. The EcoKable patent-pending design offers the same performance as standard USB cable, but uses natural cotton insulation instead of toxic PVC. That means offering consumers a real choice: two quality products for relatively the same price. Our belief is that consumers will go green if the ‘price is right,’ and that’s the founding principle of EcoKable.

The company is the brainchild of Kristian Rauhala, one of EcoKable’s co-founders. While remodeling his 1950’s house, Kristian discovered that the wiring was insulated with paper, not plastic, yet had remained in functional for more than 50 years. As talks began about founding a new company to address the problem of e-waste, Kristian recalls, “When we started looking into the USB cables, we were shocked not only by the massive volume of hundreds of millions made every year, but also by the fact that they are mostly made of PVC, causing an increasing e-waste problem and harming the environment.”

EcoKable has a recycling program for old PVC cords as well. One of the goals of the company is to have enough old PVC cables to create a piece of artwork, turning e-waste into a thing of beauty.

Now that would be truly priceless.


Brennan Cassidy, co-founder and General Manager of EcoKable, is a dedicated triathlete. His own green ‘aha’ moment came after swimming in the Pacific Ocean and running on trails in Southern California. Wanting to keep our Earth pure as he pushes his body to the limit, he started EcoKable.
EDITOR’S NOTE — EcoKable is offering consumers a 15% discount on any product, with an additional 15% benefiting the Green Schools National Network. Just visit and use the discount code “greenschools.”
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Nature’s Voices Project Fri, 13 Dec 2013 07:19:06 +0000 Wanted: Student Environmental Inspiration Stories!

We’re pleased to announce our partnership with the Green Schools Initiative, which plans to feature students’ stories of inspiration during the 2014 Green Schools National Conference and Student Summit.

GSI’s Nature’s Voices Project is a new initiative aimed at amplifying students’ voices, as young people share their stories of how they benefit from environmental education and green schools. The stories collected through the Nature’s Voices Project will illustrate the positive impacts of the green schools movement, including improved academic performance, enhanced student health, environmental conservation, and community service.

Sharing at the GSNC
These youth stories will be shared in the lead-up to the Green Schools National Conference in e-newsletters and via social media. At the conference itself, we will have large-format and table-top displays featuring student stories. We will also select the best stories and invite those student authors to tell their stories during the General Session at the conference and at the Student Summit.

We need your help!
We are offering a free scholarship for one student to attend the Green Schools National Conference and Student Summit in March to tell their story during the conference’s General Session “Pending funding”.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Please submit up to two passionate and inspirational stories written by students. Themes might include health, the environment, academic achievement, green schools, and positive school culture (anti-bullying), among others that exemplify your mission. We encourage you to submit stories with a diverse range of age, gender, race and themes.
  • We encourage you to either send stories that you currently have on file, or to reach out to teachers/students before the deadline so that they can submit their own, using the template provided below. Please be advised we may edit for length, clarity, or other reasons.
  • We will collect stories on a rolling basis, but the final deadline for submitting stories for displays and for the conference is January 31, 2014.
  • Green Schools Initiative will organize a “jury” to help select the best stories to display at the conference and invite the student authors to share their story at the conference.

Please complete the Story Submission Form and submit it with a photo of the student author or the program in action to OR use the submission form on the Nature’s Voices website:

Waivers: Please check the boxes in the Story Submission Form indicating that you have permission from parents to submit this story and photo. We have also attached our Photo Release if you are submitting a new story without your organization’s prior permission to use it.
View Photo Release

You can read some of the stories already collected at  The core elements of a successful story are:

  • A main character and a descriptive setting
  • A “before” setting, and the problem, with sensory details
  •  An “aha moment,” or a turning point (“after this experience, I realized that…”), or a surprising or magical moment
  • Specificity, not a general blanket statement about nature, with the story making a specific reference to a green school or environmental ed project, teacher or program.
  • The positive impact this experience has on the student and/or her school/fellow students

View an Example Story 

We look forward to collaborating on this project to showcase your organizations, amplify youth voices, and use the power of storytelling to promote our movement and our mission!

Some details about how the stories will be used and shared include:

  • Green Schools Initiative/Nature’s Voices Project will share stories on its website, and include a brief description of your student’s organization, program, or school (link to your website, etc);
  • Green Schools National Network will feature stories in e-newsletters and conference promotions along with info about your organization/program;
  • Green Schools Initiative will fabricate large-format and table-top displays of selected stories to showcase at the 2014 Green Schools National Conference, and at other future events.
  • GSNN partner organizations will be invited to use the stories in their own work and also link to the Nature’s Voices website.
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Zero Waste – Solutions Summit Report Wed, 30 Oct 2013 18:32:00 +0000 During the 2013 Green Schools National Conference a solution summit was held to define the most barriers to schools in becoming zero waste and to brainstorm the best solutions to overcome those barriers. In the end, we had 5 overarching categories of barriers—education, engagement, infrastructure & feasibility, data & knowledge gaps, and resources, as well as a list of potential 31 solutions.

Out of this session, a working group was formed to pursue these solutions for zero waste in schools. This working group is facilitated by Keep America Beautiful, and includes members from Project Learning Tree, Keep America Beautiful affiliates, Waste Management, NAESP, and Green Schools, among others. The group’s first task was to condense and prioritize the brainstormed solutions based on how much impact we believed the solution would have and how feasible it would be for our group to work on.

In the end of this process, the group had a total of 6 solutions.

  1. Promoting professional development around waste
  2. Working with custodian associations
  3. Compiling a resource toolkit on engagement
  4. Creating an RFP template to assist schools in soliciting recycling haulers
  5. Conducting a national school recycling study or compiling existing literature
  6. Building a methodology for waste assessments

We felt that it is highly likely that resources may already exist for each of these solutions, so rather than reinvent the wheel, the working group decided to create a survey to solicit those resources. Once collected, we want to make them more accessible for all by putting them in a central location.

I have been asked to help distribute the aforementioned survey to collect resources that already exist on the issue of Zero Waste in schools. I would greatly appreciate your participation in this survey in order to advance this extremely important topic. All responses need to be recorded by November 15th. Thank you for your participation!

If you would like more information about this working group or the survey, please contact Katy Phelps at

Author: Katy Phelps

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TRASH ON YOUR BACK® 5 DAY CHALLENGE Mon, 14 Oct 2013 19:52:07 +0000 Sustainability News & Entertainment®’s TRASH ON YOUR BACK® 5 DAY CHALLENGE was founded by Diana Dehm & inspired by MIT/Dartmouth College to innovate & motivate, and ask the simple question…”What is my personal trash impact on the planet?”



To collectively create a Zero Waste Nation & Globe, through human innovation while eliminating one piece of trash to landfill at a time.



What did 2300 people from 6 countries have in common in 2013?  The Sustainability News & Entertainment® TRASH ON YOUR BACK® 5 DAY CHALLENGE, we had 27 states represented – 6 countries; USA, Australia, Israel, Jamaica, Canada, Uganda. Our Core Team included Drew Jones of MIT’s Climate Interactive, Green Schools National Network, CEO Jim McGrath, Sustainability News & Entertainment® Radio (founder), US EPA Pollution Prevention, Matt Bogoshian, Global Conscious Leadership CEO, Tara Sheehan; Seattle Mariners & Green Sports Alliance Co-Founder Scott Jenkins; Former Mayor/City Council Member, City of Huntington Beach, CA; University of New Hampshire, US Navy Rt Admiral Len Hering (RADM, USN (ret), Randolf Elementary, Chris Castro, Co-Founder for Ideas for Us (US, Uganda, Israel), ECOSafe Bags, and Sustainable Business Partnerships™, Waste Management, and many others from Cities, Fed Gov, Major League Sports, Media/Radio/TV, K-12 Schools, Colleges & Universities, military, manufacturing, businesses, etc.)

We learned collectively that the US averages 4.4 lbs of trash per day per person, and that the USA spends $12B per year on waste management (tipping fees etc.). The TRASH ON YOUR BACK® TEAM from around the world averaged .8% of trash per day vs. 4.4 lbs the average = through behavioral choice and not wanting to literally carry all the trash, we cut the average by 82%! Imagine if we cut conservatively 50% vs. the 82%, through our choices made, and we look at the $12B we spend each year, we collectively uncovered an approximate 50-82% economic reduction opportunity to save the Nation $6B per year in “waste management”!

UNH also helped us to understand that our complete human impact is actually 250 lbs per day based on the average American use of water, energy, carbon, and waste. We can’t manage what we can’t measure – we made the invisible visible – through hands on grass roots experience and walking our talk together because our next generation is depending on us!   Join us in 2014 during Earth Day Week for the TRASH ON YOUR BACK® 5 DAY CHALLENGE HAPPENING AROUND THE WORLD.


For more information and media inquiries contact:
Diana Dehm, Founder of the TRASH ON YOUR BACK® 5 DAY CHALLENGE on 714.300.8836
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Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy Fri, 20 Sep 2013 16:38:53 +0000 Jim McGrath, CEO for the Green Schools National Network met with Geoff Grimmer, Director of VSSA during his recent visit in Colorado.  VSSA is an amazing model for having No Child Left Inside.  Students participate in daily outdoor physical activity that is integrated into their school day.  They also have the opportunity for to work on projects on stewardship, sustainability and health.  Students who attend VSSA come from across Colorado, the United States and other countries to participate in a world class Ski & Snowboard Training.  They all of these elements with a high level academic achievement for instruction.


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Investing in Communities, Transforming Lives Mon, 09 Sep 2013 19:04:50 +0000 VMDO Architects transformed two mid-century school buildings into a modern learning campus for K-5 students with the aim to address the growing concern of student health and well being. By designing the school from a holistic perspective that includes the dining experience as an educational opportunity; the school cafeteria, kitchen, and servery have been reconsidered as an important educational experience while retaining the key food service functions. The enhanced programming includes a teaching kitchen, innovative food and nutritional displays, an open servery to promote demonstration cooking, a food lab – small group learning lounge, scratch bakery, dehydrating food composter, ample natural daylight, flexible seating arrangements, and outdoor student gardens.

The natural setting of the surrounding pine and oak forest habitat, watershed, and microclimates feature prominently throughout the architecture and active landscape. The  design team worked collaboratively to create a total learning environment in order to support learning both inside and outside the traditional classroom. Each grade level enjoys age-appropriate outdoor gardens and play terraces, which encourage children to re-connect and spend time in their natural surroundings. Inside the schools, in addition to core classrooms, each grade level has small group learning spaces that transform circulation pathways into child-centric “learning streets.” These spaces are intimately scaled with soft seating and fun colors that communicate both collaborative and shared learning experiences.

To study the impact of these healthy design features, VMDO is teaming with public health researchers – Dr. Terry Huang from the University of Nebraska and Dr. Matthew Trowbridge from the University of Virginia – to study how health-promoting educational design strategies can support active communities and reduce incidence rates of childhood obesity. This design-research collaborative co-created “Healthy Eating Design Guidelines for School Architecture,” which provides new insight into how school environments can effectively promote healthy eating and movement. The impact of these guidelines is expected to improve schools’ ability to adopt healthy programming and overall support the well-being of healthy FoodSmart Kids®.

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Solutions Summit: Moving Toward Zero Waste in Schools Mon, 29 Jul 2013 20:55:41 +0000 At our 2013 Green Schools National Conference, we scheduled several work sessions – we called them “Solutions Summits” — designed to create action plans targeting several key issues: healthy food in schools, the impact of the physical environment on student achievement; reducing cost and energy consumption via policy, practice, and behavior; and creating resilient communities. This month, we take a look back at the session focused on “Moving Toward Zero Waste in Schools,” moderated by Kelley Dennings at Keep America Beautiful.

This highly interactive summit included a lightening panel round with speakers from all aspects of this issue: haulers, bin and decal manufacturers, zero waste school reps, carton recyclers, behavior change specialists and others. The goal was to create a plan for further follow-up to be organized and convened by Keep America Beautiful.

While discussion notes are available via the moderator (email Kelley at, we’re pleased to highlight a few solutions that seemed to be more feasible for starting a conversation or of greater interest to participants.

Those solutions are:


  • Work with Association of Global Custodians (or other trade association) to incentivize participation in school recycling programs
  • Compile good resources to build a toolkit for engagement solutions.  Partner on building and/or promoting Professional Development for teachers that provides environment integrating context (EIC) and connects recycling to service learning and educational standards.   If any funders are out there…we have curriculum developers ready and willing to do the work!  Consider a grant to GSNN for this project!
  • RFP Model for haulers: include pieces on education, equipment, tools for staff  training & buy-in, small hauler/ low bid, hauler reporting requirements (such as scales) and promote to associations that do contracting.
  • Conduct a national school recycling study or compile literature.  Stay tuned for a research page on our website to be launched in November 2013!
  • Build consistent methodology for paid/staff helpers to conduct your own waste assessment

We’d also like to give a shout-out to the 2013 Solution Summit panel, who took the time to share their expertise and brainpower on this very critical issue. Thanks to:

Chris McBrien, Bush Systems
Byron Chafin, Waste Management
Laura Hickey, National Wildlife Federation
John Jaimez, Hennepin County Department of Environmental Services
Kaitlin Phelps, The Environmental Motivation Project
Michele Wagner, Carton Council


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Scholarships Available for July Professional Development! Act now! Tue, 09 Jul 2013 16:53:13 +0000 Apostle Islands National Lakeshore “G-WOW Changing Climate, Changing Culture Teacher Institute”, July 15-18, Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center and surrounding national forest, Apostle Islands, and tribal communities.

Designed for teachers and educators to increase climate literacy and ability to outreach to students through use of place-based and scientific climate change investigation and application through service learning.  The Institute integrates place-based evidence of climate impacts on traditional cultural practices of the Lake Superior Ojibwe people with the latest climate science and is based on the G-WOW Changing Climate, Changing Culture Model  Participants work toward designing a climate service project with their class. No charge to attend. Participants can receive a $400 stipend, credit, and transportation funds to bring their students to a national park for climate change field experiences. This year’s featured presenters include John Magnuson- Co-Chair of the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impact Science Council, Peter and Lisa David- Wild Rice Specialists and Jim St. Arnold-TEK  Specialist with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), Maria Janowiak-Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science, Bob Krumenaker-Superintendent, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (AINL), and Cyrus Hester-Bad River Tribal Natural Resources Dept.  Alumni teachers from the 2012 Institute will be available as mentors. Agenda and registration materials available at URL above. This Institute a partnership between the UW-Arboretum and the AINL, GLIFWC, US Forest Service, UW-Extension, and the Friends of the Center. This Institute is funded through a grant from the National Parks Foundation.  Enrollment deadline extended to  July 10.


Earth Partnership for Schools Indigenous Arts and Sciences Watershed Institute, July 29-August 2, Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center and surrounding communities and tribal lands.   This Institute is offers training for teachers, community educators, and youth to create “mentor teams” that will learn how to apply traditional ecologic knowledge of the Lake Superior Ojibwe and western science to promote watershed stewardship within their communities. This year’s Institute features 2-tracks. One will be taught by UW Instructional Communications Professor and Bad River Tribal member Patty Loew who will train teams in how to create educational videos to document watershed stewardship practices and techniques.  Video documentaries will be made of the Institute’s watershed restoration training.  The second track features in-depth water quality testing and watershed restoration practices that can be applied on a community level.  UW-ERC Wave Action Volunteer Program Coordinator Kris Stepenuck will provide water quality training. Application info is available at the URL above. Field experiences include investigation of water quality issues and opportunities within the Bad River Watershed from its headwaters at Caroline Lake (near the proposed G-TAC open pit iron mine site) to the Kakagon Sloughs at Lake Superior where we will offer a boat tour of the Bad River Tribe’s traditional wild rice beds.  Participants can receive 3 graduate credits from UW.  This Institute is a partnership between the USFS, AINL-NPS, GLIFWC, UW-Extension, and the Friends of the Center. Enrollment deadline: July 10.

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Joining us in Sacramento? Time to register! Tue, 02 Jul 2013 03:18:51 +0000 Registration is open for our 4th annual Green Schools National Conference, set for March 27-29, 2014 in beautiful Sacramento, CA.


Just follow this link — – and learn all about our registration specials, early bird discounts and deadlines. Remember, the more the merrier, so consider our group rates and be sure to invite colleagues and others to join you for this special conference.


We’re also accepting RFPs for conference presentations. Our theme is “Working Together for Healthy, Sustainable Schools.” Do you have research you’d like to share, or best practices about greening our schools? What might you contribute to conferees or share via your experiences in the green school space?


The deadline for proposals is August 31. For proposal questions, contact Jeanne Witte, Communications Associate at


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