Highlights from the 2019 Green Schools Conference & Expo

By Amanda Sawit

Early in April, 1,000 attendees gathered in St. Paul, Minn., to celebrate the role of schools in fostering the next generation of sustainability leaders at the Green Schools Conference & Expo. The event, which is produced by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), offered two days of educational sessions, case studies, hands-on workshops and lectures from today’s green school experts. For those that missed it, here are the top three highlights from the show:

 USGBC unveils new program for teaching STEM in K12 schools

The Building Learners program is equipped with standards-aligned lessons about sustainability and a state-of-the-art online building management dashboard. It brings together a core team of school facilities personnel, educators and volunteer green building professionals to engage students in real-world energy, water, waste, transportation and environmental health investigations of their school.

Teachers, administrators and facility managers can get started for free now. Schools can also “claim” their buildings to start using the digital dashboard for tracking sustainability performance.

The program builds on a previous beta program that was conducted with a handful of schools and districts across the nation using the digital benchmarking tool Arc. There are currently more than 110 schools using Arc to measure and teach school sustainability.

First student-led LEED v4.1 project in Minnesota achieves LEED Gold

Students and alumni of the School of Environmental Studies in Apple Valley, Minnesota, celebrated the LEED certification of their school building with a plaque ceremony during the Opening Plenary. A cohort of 45 students led a multi-year effort, with the assistance of 25 local green building professionals. This is the first certified LEED v4.1 project to be driven by students in the state.

“The project overall has given a voice to students, inspiring advocacy and action,” said Kimberly Lewis, senior vice president at USGBC, during the ceremony. “They are truly a shining beacon of what’s possible when you let students take the lead.”

Best of Green Schools, Green Apple Day of Service Award Winners Announced

For the second year in a row, winners of the 2019 Best of Green Schools and Green Apple Day of Service awards were recognized onstage during conference proceedings.

 The Best of Green Schools Awards represent the best environmental efforts in schools across the country and highlight national leaders in school sustainability. They are co-presented by USGBC’s Center for Green Schools and the Green Schools National Network.

“These honorees truly embody the value of stewardship,” said Anisa Heming, director, Center for Green Schools at USGBC in a release. “The work they have done to advance environmental literacy and the quality of the spaces where learning takes place, is so impactful. Youth everywhere are inspiring what the future of our world should look like and we are committed to supporting them in that effort.”

Best of Green Schools honorees include:



The Green Apple Day of Service Awards recognize outstanding K12 sustainability service learning projects and leaders. The winners are:


 The location of the 2020 Green Schools Conference and call for proposals will be announced soon. Learn more at greenschoolsconference.org.

Amanda Sawit serves as the Communications Manager for the USGBC.