Guest post by Emily Olsen-Harbich, Center for Green Schools

The USGBC Louisiana Chapter supports sustainable school initiatives in the city.

Sustainability professionals from around the world gather in New Orleans this week as the annual Greenbuild Conference and Expo kicks off on October 22nd. Industry leaders, scientific experts and passionate volunteers are here for three exhilarating days of uplifting speakers, showcases, LEED workshops and tours of green buildings in New Orleans. Perhaps most of all, this event offers a place for thousands to gather and renew their commitment to the green movement.

In the spirit of the week, the Center for Green Schools and the local USGBC Chapter in Louisiana will host several events celebrating the transformation of New Orleans schools into more sustainable and healthier places for students to learn and grow. The Center for Green Schools was established to drive exactly these types of initiatives, as we believe that everyone, from the kindergartner entering the classroom to the Ph.D. student performing research in a lab, should have the ability to learn in green buildings. The Center works directly with teachers, students, administrators, elected officials and communities to create programs, resources and partnerships that transform all schools into healthy learning environments.

Thanks to programming through the Edible Schoolyard initiative, volunteers from the Green Building Certification Institute and members of the Center team will get their hands dirty in one of the thriving Edible Schoolyard gardens in New Orleans. The volunteers will be working at John Dibert Community School at Wheatley, where children and families are learning how to best grow their own food. Students in schools around the city will also learn more about green building and the benefits of their own sustainable schools during visits from the Center team.

One school the Center team will visit already knows all about sustainability. A recent winner of USGBC Louisiana’s “Green Schools Challenge”, Ben Franklin High School will host the New Orleans Green Schools Celebration during the Greenbuild Conference. By establishing a team of student leaders, known as the “Green Society Club,” the school has inspired a school-wide greening effort. Members of the Green Society and students from the A.P. Biology classes worked with an electrical engineer to conduct an energy audit then used the data to create a Lighting and Facilities Phasing Plan. Because of the students’ work, the administration has signed an agreement to buy Renewable Energy Certificates, committed to buying UV lights to reduce energy consumption, and made a plan to invest in solar panels in the fall. The Green Society was also instrumental in the planning of a Diversity Garden on the property. This space will provide an opportunity for outdoor learning and increase local biodiversity by providing habitat for pollinators and birds.

Celebrating Greenbuild in New Orleans this year will not only generate momentum around the green building movement as a whole, but will shine light on collaborative programs like the Louisiana Green Schools Challenge that are springing up all across the city. In an area not always associated with transformation and possibility, the Center for Green Schools is thrilled to acknowledge these thriving community movements towards a more sustainable future in New Orleans.