American Jobs Act Would Offer Greening Opportunities To A Third of U.S. Schools

When President Obama presented the American Jobs Act proposal to the nation this week, he specifically proposed that some of the jobs be created by updating and refurbishing 35,000 schools across the U.S.  Some $30 billion would be allocated to modernize and upgrade public schools to meet 21st Century needs while putting many people back to work.  The plan is to address a range of pressing needs that schools have such as wiring for the Internet, new labs, new facilities and more.  One immediate result will be to make these schools greener.

American schools are chronically underfunded and suffer from deferred maintenance and repairs that would take $270 billion to cover.  Many of our 100,000 public schools are worn out, sometimes unsafe or unhealthy for the children and are highly consumptive of energy.  The U.S. EPA estimates that as much as 25% of the energy used in schools is wasted and our many older, drafty school buildings are a top reason.  That is a $6 billion annual bill that would be substantially trimmed with some long-needed green refurbishing.   Quick fixes that would bring immediate results include:  more energy efficient doors and windows, modern lighting, programmable thermostats, insulation and energy timers. There are many other things that can be done to make schools more efficient in their use of energy and water.  A good energy-focused retrofit, for example, can cut the schools utility bills by 33% to 50%.

“The President’s plan to modernize America’s schools and make them cleaner and safer for students though the American Jobs Act is also an opportunity for them to be greener and more energy efficient” said Larry Schweiger, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, sponsor of Eco-Schools USA. “This will help student health and learning, support job creation and decrease the schools’ environmental footprints.”

Once these schools are brought up-to-date and many of them are made cleaner and greener, they could stay the green path by becoming part of the NWF Eco-Schools USA Program.  The program is designed to help schools green their buildings, their grounds and their curricula.  Student teams do environmental audits, community service projects, waste recycling and more.  Importantly, environmental education becomes a theme for learning science and other subjects and can help them get ready for jobs in the future.  It is the perfect educational addition to a school that has just had its energy and environmental footprint lowered.

Public school districts are under constant financial strain and would benefit greatly from the money-saving refurbishments the American Jobs Act would make possible.  NWF’s Eco-Schools USA could help those same schools to stay green and keep reaping the major educational and environmental benefits long after the workers have finished.

Published: September 8, 2011