Greening Our Schools: Building Cleaner Environments for the Next Generation‍

There are efforts around the country to green schools so students can learn in environments with less pollutants, heat, and waste. 

Emissions within schools primarily come from various sources related to energy consumption, transportation, and indoor activities. Start here to look for inspiration to bring to your school board.

Big Sources of Emissions in Schools 

Energy Use

Heating, cooling, lighting, and powering electronic devices contribute significantly to energy-related emissions. Inefficient HVAC systems, outdated lighting fixtures, and improper insulation can lead to higher energy consumption and emissions.

Electricity Consumption

Schools often have a substantial number of computers, projectors, printers, and other electronic devices that consume electricity. The use of outdated or energy-inefficient equipment can lead to higher emissions.


Emissions from transportation include buses and cars used to transport students and staff to and from school. If schools are located in areas where public transportation options are limited, there might be a higher reliance on private vehicles.

Food Services

Emissions can also come from the preparation and distribution of meals. The use of energy-intensive cooking equipment and the transportation of food items to schools can contribute to emissions.

Waste Management

Inadequate waste management practices can lead to emissions from landfills and incinerators. Implementing effective recycling and waste reduction programs can help mitigate this source of emissions.

Construction and Maintenance

Emissions can arise from construction and maintenance activities, particularly if energy-efficient materials and practices are not utilized. Renovation projects that involve demolition and rebuilding can also generate emissions.

Indoor Activities

Indoor activities like labs, art classes, and workshops may involve the use of materials and chemicals that emit pollutants. Proper ventilation and safe handling of these materials are crucial to minimize their impact on indoor air quality.

Water Usage

Although not as significant as other sources, water heating and usage can contribute to emissions, especially in schools that use fossil fuels for water heating.

Opportunities to Reduce Emissions in Schools

Sustainability projects can not only reduce the emissions of a school, they can reduce the budget in the long-run. Whether you start small with a school car

  • Energy Efficiency: Upgrading lighting, HVAC systems, and appliances to more energy-efficient models can significantly reduce emissions. Also, look into motion-detection lights.
  • Renewable Energy: Installing solar panels or using other renewable energy sources can help offset emissions from energy consumption and lower power bills.
  • Transportation Alternatives: Encouraging walking, cycling, carpooling, or using electric or hybrid vehicles for transportation can lower emissions. Ensure that schools are equipped with adequate support and safety measures for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Waste Reduction: Implementing effective recycling programs and reducing food and material waste can lower emissions associated with waste management. Try setting up a compost bin to get students involved!
  • Green Building Practices: Incorporating energy-efficient building designs and materials during construction or renovation can lead to lower emissions over the long term. Plus, low-VOC materials can reduce indoor air pollutants.
  • Environmental Education: Educating students, staff, and parents about sustainable practices can create a culture of sustainability within the school community.

By addressing these sources of emissions, schools can contribute to a healthier environment and provide valuable lessons in sustainability for students and the broader community.


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