In response to Mayor Bloomberg’s challenge to New York City (NYC) institutions to reduce their carbon footprint 30 percent by 2030, on October 11, 2007, 46 schools gathered at the Allen-Stevenson School in NYC to explore solutions to climate change. After this meeting, with support from the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, school associations, and numerous other partners, GSA was officially launched. Today it is a global network of schools guiding schools, which addresses 21st Century climate and conservation challenges. It includes more than 3,000 public, private and independent schools in 40 U.S. states and 12 countries, and represents more than two million students. GSA’s Student Advisory Board, comprised of high-school and college students, helps to steer its programs, mission and goals.
Membership in GSA is free and is built around a climate and sustainability “Leadership Commitment,” which asks schools to become either “GSA Climate Stewards” or “GSA Climate Champions.” GSA Climate Stewards are asked to benchmark their energy use and carbon footprint. GSA Climate Champions commit to reducing their carbon footprint by 30 percent in five years and to achieving carbon neutrality within 10 years. Both membership levels also ask schools to address all aspects of sustainability in addition to energy and emissions reductions. Entire public school districts may join at the Stewards level, as NYC and Chicago public school systems have done.
GSA goals are supported by national programs, including the Green Cup Challenge® and the Student Climate & Conservation Congress (Sc3). Both programs are open to member and non-member schools alike and involve faculty, students, business officers, facility managers and parent volunteers in a broad range of sustainability and energy actions.
Emily Alix Fano is a consultant with the Green Schools Alliance. She has a Master’s degree in Urban and Environmental Policy from Tufts University and writes on green schools, biotechnology and the environment for national and international forums. A passionate environmentalist devoted to the goal of zero-waste schools, Fano is an active member of the District 3 Green Schools Group – a coalition of parents creating model green programs in New York City public schools. She has been recognized as a Changemaker by Planet Green. E: email@example.com