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Inverness Associates News

Building the Environmental Education Movement: The National Green Schools Network

In the fall of 2010 just after I retired as principal of Head-Royce School in Oakland, California, I began a journey to help grow greener, more environmentally sustainable schools.  That fall I joined the first gathering of the newly-formed Green Schools National Network (GSNN,, a collaboration of public, private and parochial schools from around the country working to promote environmental education and sustainability.  The meeting attracted some 800 participants from across the country in four different areas: formal school-based educators, environmental educators from the non-profit world, corporate representatives, and higher education.

The conference created a vision for our nation’s 132,000 schools to reduce their footprint, develop healthy operations, and adopt an ecological curriculum.

We Can Do This: Education, Energy and Climate Change

In early May I participated in an inspiring conference at Stanford called “Setting the Climate Agenda for the Next U.S. President” and came away with renewed optimism.  Joining with several hundred educators, researchers, government officials and business leaders, we reflected on the “strategies the next President might employ to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the United Stated’ pivot to a clean energy economy.”  At a time when the challenge of climate change can seem daunting, especially to those like me who work with the rising generation in K-12 schools, this meeting gave me renewed hope.  As keynote speaker and former secretary of state, George Schultz, observed, “Climate change is a big problem, we have the technical know-how to address it, and we can do this.”

A Time to Choose

When I was the Head of Head-Royce School in Oakland, I worked closely with a gifted architect, Jeff Horowitz, who as chair of the board of trustees helped inspire our effort to make the school greener and more environmentally sustainable.  After his service at the school, Jeff created a non-profit in 2007 called Avoided Deforestation Partners ( along with a group of internationally recognized tropical forest experts.  They understood that one of the best ways to mitigate the impact of climate change is to stop cutting our forests.

 ADP has had a significant impact in the movement to address climate change, most recently screening a short, powerful film at the COP21 Climate Summit in Paris called “Stop the Burning.” 

NAIS Green Ribbon Schools Receive National Recognition

On Earth Day U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. announced that five NAIS schools had been selected as Green Ribbon Award recipients for 2015-16, a recognition that they are among the most environmentally sustainable schools in country.  This year’s NAIS Green Ribbon Schools include:

California Environmental Literacy Blueprint Released

This past year I was glad to serve on Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson’s Environmental Literacy Task Force, and I was delighted the new California Blueprint for Environmental Literacy was released to the public on September 15, 2015 by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.
The plan presents a vision for how all 6 million students in California can become environmental stewards and help address the significant environmental challenges we face.  California is our nation’s largest and most diverse state, with a legacy of pioneering work in the field of environmental education and green and sustainable schools.  I am proud of the new Blueprint for Environmental Literacy, and I hope it informs not only our work in the state, but across the nation. 

A Map of Green Schools

In 2015 Inverness Associates completed an extensive effort to map the state of green schools nationally, and the results show ways in which private independent schools are playing leadership roles in the effort to create more environmentally sustainable schools.  Over 25,000 school principals were surveyed, or approximately a fifth of the nation’s total, and the response rates from three parallel surveys allow for statistically meaningful generalizations about the strengths, weakness, challenges and opportunities our schools face. 

A Note on Methods

Green Ribbon Schools Honored

On Earth Day, April 22, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced this year’s recipients of the Green Ribbon Schools award from the U.S. Department of Education.  Once again private independent schools from across the country were among those selected as exemplary green schools.

Green Schools National Conference: Building the National Movement

Since the Green Schools National Network was launched in 2010, I have attended each of the five national conferences, and this year’s gathering in Virginia Beach, Virginia demonstrated that the national movement for healthy, environmentally sustainable schools is making significant progress. 

Led by executive director Jenny Seydel, the mission of the GSNN is to advance the national green and healthy schools movement by connecting like-minded and passionate education, non-profit, corporate and public sector individuals and organizations. The conference drew nearly 1000 participants from all over the US; the top states sending representatives included California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Virginia, and New York, and each has a well-developed green schools presence and exemplary green schools.  The GSNN “Greenprint” defines five elements of a green schools: curriculum that advances environmental literacy and sustainability; stewardship and service learning; sustainable facilities design and management; health and well being; and strong partnerships and networks.

National Green Independent Schools Survey

Environmental Education and Sustainability in American Independent Schools

Environmental Education and Sustainability in Bay Area Private Schools

In January 2013, Inverness Associates conducted a comprehensive survey of environmental education and sustainability in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The survey was commissioned by the Environmental Education Collaborative (, a group of eight informal environmental organizations, including California Academy of Sciences, The Exploratorium, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, Lawrence Hall of Science, Monterey Bay Aquarium, NatureBridge, and Pie Ranch.  The survey provides a detailed portrait of the successes and challenges experienced by private schools incorporating environmental education and sustainability practices.      

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