AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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Our Union's Roadmap to Green and Sustainable Schools

green apple

In a 2008 resolution, the AFT pledged to advocate for green schools that ensure a quality learning environment for students and staff. We know that green and sustainable schools create a healthy environment that is conducive to learning while saving energy resources and money. Studies show a strong positive relationship between overall building conditions and student achievement. Researchers have repeatedly found a difference of 5-17 percentile points between achievement of students in poor buildings and those in environmentally adequate buildings, when the socioeconomic status of students is controlled. In addition, schools and colleges currently spend more money every year on energy and utility costs exceeding the combined cost of supplies and books.

Green schools focus on improvements in site selection, use of daylight, indoor air quality, thermal comfort, acoustics and classroom design—all of which have important impact on the ability of students to learn, teachers to teach, and staff to do their jobs.

Our pledge to our members and the students we serve means the AFT will:

  • Advocate for legislation at the federal and state level that will support school districts in their efforts to design, build, renovate and operate schools that meet the U.S. Green Building Council LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Schools certification;
  • Work with locals to create sustainability programs and help them to be actively involved in the building design/maintenance process;
  • Work with locals to create curriculum for environmental education; and
  • Advocate for unionized trades to build green.

As a first step, the AFT produced "Building Minds, Mindings Buildings: Our Union’s Road Map to Green and Sustainable Schools." This guide provides an overview of the health benefits and cost savings of building green schools. It highlights the role our affiliates and members have played in the design, construction and maintenance process.

We also have created a survey to gather from our members the ways in which they are already incorporating environmental efficiency and green issues into their classroom and school activities.