Jewish Energy Guide-The Green School: Using Buildings as Teachers

The Green School: Using Buildings as Teachers
By Cynthia Thomashow

Summary: As education manager for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, Cynthia Thomashow discusses how green school buildings can transform education while providing environmental and economic benefits.

When I was a child in school, I never questioned the source of the building’s heat or light. I didn’t ask about where the food in the cafeteria came from. I didn’t care about how many materials were used in the classroom or what happened to them after they were no longer needed. Then, in 1972, my perspective shifted. As the iconic photo of Earth taken by the crew of Apollo 17 was discussed in my college classroom, the “blue marble” floating in space suddenly seemed small, fragile, limited. I started asking questions about the way I lived — the way we related to each other as a society, the way we consumed resources — and I started weighing the amount that we waste against what we recycle. It was an important awakening.

Every school day, more than 55 million students and five million faculty, staff and administrators spend the day inside school buildings. Yet the majority of us don’t understand the systems that support their operations, such as how they use energy, where water comes from, and where waste goes. One of the richest areas for environmental education comes from uncovering the secret life of a school building.

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Cynthia Thomashow is the education manager for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. She previously directed the master’s program in environmental education at Antioch University New England Graduate School, and directed the Center for Environmental Education, an online teacher resource center in environmental and sustainability education. Thomashow also developed and managed the educational program for National Public Radio’s Living on Earth radio show. She also served as an adjunct professor at Unity College.

The Jewish Energy Guide presents a comprehensive Jewish approach to the challenges of energy security and climate change and offers a blueprint for the Jewish community to achieve a 14% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by September of 2014, which is the next Shmittah, or sabbatical, year in the Jewish calendar.

The Jewish Energy Guide is part of COEJL's Jewish Energy Network, a collaborative effort with Jewcology's Year of Action to engage Jews in energy action and advocacy.The Guide was created in partnership with the Green Zionist Alliance.

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