Pay it forward in your community through Green Apple Day of Service

Published on: 
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Danielle Makous

At the Center for Green Schools at USGBC, we believe that all students should have the opportunity to attend schools that sustain the world they live in. As Earth Day approaches, we want to remind communities to look to their local schools as a space to promote a thriving, healthy planet.

Green Apple Day of Service offers a variety of project ideas for school communities to come together and reduce their impact on the environment, support health and wellness in schools and advance environmental and sustainability literacy. These projects also give students and teachers the tools they need to engage in civic participation and leave their communities—and the world—better off for those who come after them.

Here are some examples of projects that can help your school community have a lasting, positive impact on our planet.

Create or tend a school garden

  • Good for the environment: Gardens teach students about the important role of land in our lives, such as providing wildlife refuge and habitat, growing vegetables and fruit for instruction or cafeteria use and providing places to divert water from storm sewers.
  • Good for students: You can use planting a garden with students as an opportunity to teach lessons about plant cycles and the environment, as well as teamwork, responsibility and nutritional values.

Train custodians on green cleaning

  • Good for the environment: Conventional cleaning supplies have been found to pollute indoor air with toxins such as lead, asbestos, chemical fumes, pesticides and molds. The transition to a green cleaning program can both prevent this air pollution and decrease a school’s carbon emissions footprint by using energy-efficient cleaning equipment.
  • Good for students: This project is an example of intergenerational engagement in sustainability, with faculty, students and custodians alike benefiting from increased productivity in an indoor environment free from environmental pollutants and irritants. Whether it is training new custodial workers, expanding on what they already know, adopting new processes or testing new technologies, success is dependent upon custodians receiving appropriate training.

Communicate your school’s sustainability values

  • Good for the environment: Signs and murals are great and public ways for a school to show its commitment to healthy and sustainable learning environments. Signs remind people to turn off lights or faucets, resulting in better operational practices and more savings for your local schools and campuses. A mural is a larger-scale way to remind visitors and the school community about the school’s values.
  • Good for students: These communication strategies impact the education and behavior of all students, and all people, that walk the halls of your school.

Check out more project ideas.

Register a Green Apple Day of Service project

Apply for the 2018 Best of Green Schools and Green Apple Day of Service awards

Published on: 
Thursday, March 1, 2018
Carolyn Yi

Awards season is here, and we have a lot to celebrate! The Center for Green Schools at USGBC is excited to announce that nominations are open for two award opportunities:

  • The 2018 Best of Green Schools Awards, which are co-presented with the Green Schools National Network, celebrate the hard work being done by individuals, schools, campuses and organizations to push the green schools movement forward. Last year’s honorees included a school with student-led waste and energy reduction initiatives and an organization enhancing K–12 instruction for environmental literacy throughout their state. Submit your nomination for the 2018 awards.

The call for nominations for both awards closes at 11:59 p.m. EST on Fri., March 23, 2018.

If you or someone you know is making significant strides toward creating more sustainable schools, we want to hear from you. The categories, criteria and application links for both awards are below. You are welcome to submit nominations for yourself and others.

Winners will be announced and awarded at the 2018 Green Schools Conference and Expo in Denver, Colorado, May 3–4. This annual gathering of the leaders and innovators is the perfect moment to celebrate the leadership embodied by awardees. After submitting your nomination, register to attend the conference so you’ll be on hand in Denver to see (or receive!) the awards during the closing plenary.

2018 Best of Green Schools categories and criteria

  • K–12 School: Recognizing schools that have consistently modeled exemplary green school practices and share what they have learned with external communities.
  • School System: Recognizing school systems and districts that have created long-term partnerships, demonstrated a commitment to systemic change and shared best practices with external communities.
  • Higher Ed Institution: Recognizing higher education institutions or faculty members who have made a significant contribution to the K–12 green schools movement through partnership, research and/or scholarship.
  • Policy Maker: Recognizing individuals who have demonstrated exemplary efforts in promoting policies at the local, state or federal level that support the necessary systemic change to ensure that all children can attend a green school.
  • Ambassador: Recognizing individuals who have demonstrated exemplary efforts in promoting green schools in K–12 classroom settings, and have engaged community organizations to create systemic change to strengthen the green schools movement and create a more sustainable future.
  • Collaborator: Recognizing organizations and governmental agencies that have made substantial contributions in advancing the green schools movement.
  • Student Leader: Recognizing K–12 students who have demonstrated exemplary efforts in promoting improvements to their schools and communities.
  • Business Leader: Recognizing private-sector organizations and individuals who have made substantial contributions in advancing the green schools movement.
  • Transformation: Recognizing investments of time, energy and resources to transform a school, school community, event or policy into an exemplary model for the green schools movement.
  • Moment for the Movement: Recognizing events, initiatives or happenings that significantly advanced the green schools movement.

Submit your nomination for the 2018 Best of Green Schools Awards.

2018 Green Apple Day of Service categories and criteria

  • Standout Project: Recognizing exemplary projects that successfully address a critical sustainability issue for their school and effectively engage volunteers and students. Please tell us why the project you are putting forward is a standout.
  • Standout Leader: Recognizing project leaders who have gone above and beyond for Green Apple Day of Service. They may stand out for building on their efforts year after year, or for initiating a particularly creative project idea. The individual may be a student, parent, teacher, school staff member or community volunteer.

Projects must be registered on and must have concluded by the time the nomination or application is submitted.

Submit your nomination for a standout Green Apple Day of Service project or project leader.

Green Apple Day of Service projects in Detroit receive mini-grants

Published on: 
Thursday, February 22, 2018
Krysten Dorfman

Fifteen schools from the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) were recently chosen to receive a Green Apple Day of Service Mini Grant, which awards $200 to projects that promote a healthier, more sustainable school.

Projects this year are largely being undertaken by DPSCD Go Green Challenge Green Teams. Spearheading sustainability projects that range from community space transformations to schoolwide green initiatives, Detroit students of all ages will soon be turning blueprints into realities with support from the grant.

Greening schools, greening communities

At Renaissance High School, for example, the Green Team plans to use grant funds to host a communitywide Green Fair featuring environmental causes like recycling, solar panels and neighborhood gardens.

“The idea came up because we wanted to inform people just how important the environment is,” David Okorom, a Renaissance sophomore, explained, “and we feel the best way to inform people is to be hands-on.” Okorom and the Renaissance Green Team aim to hold the Green Fair during Earth Week in late April.

The project focus at Frederick Douglass Academy for Young Men is improving the school’s expansive and underutilized courtyard. The FDA Green Team, nicknamed The Green Crusaders, noticed that the courtyard, which was typically locked, held untapped potential to become a colorful, active community hub. After surveying FDA’s student body to gauge their ideas for the space, the team will host Earth Day programming in their freshly revitalized courtyard.

The Green Team at Sampson-Webber Leadership Academy will take a different spin on “revitalization” for their Green Apple project by creating art installations from recycled materials. The 7th grade team, which had won the Go Green Challenge Recycling Competition in previous years, wanted to combine their knowledge of recycling with their artistic talents to solve the problem of litter while adding some color to their school grounds.

Youth leadership is key aspect of all of these projects. Green Teams are guided by AmeriCorps Green School Coordinators, but the ideas, planning and execution are driven completely by students. Frederick Douglass students even initiated a social media presence to promote their team’s progress, posting with the Instagram handle @greencrusaders. With their voices at the helm and Green Apple funds to fuel their journeys, these Detroit students are in the fast lane to healthier, greener schools.

The grantees

The 15 DPSCD Green Apple Day of Service Grantees, lead teachers and project titles:

  • Academy of the Americas, Ms. Carol Smuk, "Garden Day"
  • Burton International Academy, Ms. Stacy Kings, "School Garden"
  • Chrysler Elementary School, Mr. Gregory Dombro, "Green Eating for Everyone"
  • Davison Elementary-Middle School, Ms. Georgetta Johnson, "Keep Davison Beautiful"
  • Detroit Collegiate Preparatory at Northwestern, Mr. James Jennings, "DCP's Greenhouse Facelift"
  • Detroit International Academy for Young Women, Ms. Courtney Valentine, "Cleaning Up Our Greenhouse"
  • East English Village Preparatory Academy, Ms. Kimberley Stevenson, "EEVPA Bull Dog Beautification Project"
  • Frederick Douglass Academy for Young Men, Mr. Chad Segrist, "The Courtyard @FDA: The Beginnings"
  • Greenfield Union Elementary-Middle School, Ms. Rudaina Kainaya, "Greenhouse Function"
  • Harms Elementary School, Ms. Jackie Waldron, "Improving Our School's Garden"
  • Hutchinson Elementary-Middle School at Howe, Ms. Penelope Johnson, "Green Angels Clean to Stay Green"
  • Renaissance High School, Ms. Kerry Williams, "Renaissance High School Green Fair"
  • Roberto Clemente Learning Academy, Ms. Stefanie Argy, "Creating an Indoor Hydroponic Garden"
  • Sampson Webber Leadership Academy, Ms. Lashon Clay, "Beautify Sampson"
  • West Side Academy for IT and Cyber Security, Mr. Arzell Jones, "Expanding On Our School Garden and Creating a Community Space"

Progress updates on all DPSCD Go Green Challenge projects can be found on the GGC blog.

Start your own Green Apple project

Green Apple Day of Service Spotlight (USGBC National Capital Region)

Published on: 
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Mark Bryan

Feature image: National Capital Region volunteers rehabilitated a set of planter boxes that had fallen into disrepair, so students could again grow plants on school property.

On October 28, 30 members of the USGBC National Capital Region community performed a Green Apple Day of Service project, gathering at John Hayden Johnson Middle School in Southeast Washington, D.C. Organized by Braden Reid of HKS and Craighton Ellingsworth of GreenWall Source, volunteers from across the region went to work cleaning and transforming a seldom-used courtyard. The space is now a clean, vibrant common area where students can congregate and plant a variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers.

View our full photo album of the event.

National Capital Region Green Apple project

The courtyard’s benches were cleaned, sanded and repainted, allowing students to once again congregate in the outdoor area.

Our community service events rely on the generosity of our volunteers and donors, and we can’t thank them enough for their time and energy. If you’re interested in hosting a Green Apple Day of Service in your community, check out the wide variety of sample projects on to inspire your efforts to give back to your local school. Once you begin planning your event let us know so that we can come document your amazing work.

National Capital Region Green Apple project

Community volunteers also refurbished and sealed a sign built by students, ensuring their creation will withstand the elements for years to come.

Special thanks are due to the companies that provided product donations in support of the project, including Benjamin Moore, Ernest Maier, Inc., Home Depot and Chipotle. We also thank Lavanya Poteau of Johnson Middle School for coordinating with us and donating her Saturday morning to our project.

Start your own Green Apple project

Green Apple Day of Service spotlight: Mary Lin Elementary in Atlanta

Published on: 
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Kristen Keim

Mary Lin Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia, is so dedicated to Green Apple Day of Service that in 2016 the school leaders stretched it out into a whole "Go Green Week." This weeklong event raised awareness and funds for the school’s outdoor classroom and learning garden. Students, parents, and staff were involved in activities to promote sustainability in school and at home.

On Monday, the students took a pledge to go green and were given challenges throughout the week, such as bringing a lunch and snack consisting of no waste; wearing clothes that were either recycled, vintage or secondhand; and creating a fashion show using trash.

Mary Lin used its recycling fundraiser, “Turn Trash into Ca$h,” to support construction of the outdoor classroom and garden. Working electronic waste (such as cell phones, smart phones and iPads) were sent to a company who recycled the e-waste and gave the school the proceeds.

The Saturday after Go Green Week, students and families of Mary Lin gathered to clean up their existing outdoor garden. Volunteers split into two groups, one to clean up the garden and the other to install and paint outdoor chalkboards for the playground. After the day’s work, the garden had been revitalized into a beautiful learning space.

Mary Lin Elementary Green Apple Day of Service project

The following spring, Mary Lin began the construction of the new outdoor classroom. Though the school has many more plans to improve the area, the volunteers completed the first of four phases of their outdoor classroom. The addition contains a garden that can serve a new garden club, expanding students’ ability to participate throughout the year. The outdoor classroom was unveiled in September 2017 to the public, for the community to see the product of their fundraising efforts. Mary Lin plans to continue building their outdoor classroom in the upcoming year.

Creating an outdoor classroom or school garden is a great way to involve the community in your own Green Apple Day of Service project. To get started, read Green Apple Day of Service’s create or tend a garden page. To fund your project, consider having an educator at your school ask for materials and supplies through If your project is registered on, the Center for Green Schools will match funds raised through, up to $200 per project.

Register a Green Apple project

USGBC staff volunteer for Green Apple Day of Service projects

Published on: 
Friday, November 17, 2017
Danielle Makous

This fall, USGBC staff joined the movement of parents, teachers and organizations working to make our schools greener through Green Apple Day of Service. More than 70 percent of our Washington, D.C.-based staff and over 50 percent of our staff around the world participated in Green Apple projects this year. Throughout the months of September and October, D.C. staff volunteered with sustainability-focused programs in K–12 schools around the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area.

Discovery Elementary in Arlingon, Virginia

Discovery Elementary in Arlington, Virginia.

Our volunteers began each day visiting our closest net zero energy school, Discovery Elementary, to experience firsthand the impact of a green school. We saw how the physical environment and school curriculum can creatively work together to drive student understanding of sustainability. Among the highlights of the tour were an interactive rooftop solar lab, educational signage about the sustainable building features, physical design elements related to local plants and animals and a solar clock integrated into the school entranceway.

Discovery Elementary in Arlingon, Virginia

Discovery Elementary uses signage and graphics to educate on sustainability.

After the visit to Discovery Elementary, our staff split up to volunteer with two different projects. At Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School, volunteers helped rearrange existing planting beds to create a space for classes to meet outside. Incorporating outdoor space and daylight into learning environments has been shown to improve student performance and increase productivity, as well as conserve energy resources.

Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School Green Apple Day of Service project

USGBC staff volunteer at a Green Apple project at Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School.

The remaining staff volunteered for Joyful Food Markets, a program hosted by Martha’s Table and the Capital Area Food Bank that increases access to and encourages consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. The program is run at elementary schools in neighborhoods that have a lower income and less access to healthy foods, such as Cornerstone of Washington School, Cedar Tree Academy, and Powell Elementary School, Turner Elementary, and DC Prep, where USGBC staff volunteered.

Joyful Food Markets Green Apple Day of Service project

USGBC staff volunteer at a Green Apple project for Joyful Food Markets at DC Prep.

Green Apple Day of Service projects focus on making school improvements to benefit students in line with the three pillars of a green school: reduced environmental impact, health and well-being and increased sustainability and environmental literacy. The volunteer projects that USGBC staff participated in this year contributed in particular to the second and third pillars. Our staff was among the thousands of volunteers across 70 countries participating in Green Apple Day of Service, helping make schools everywhere healthier and more sustainable for future generations.

Participate in a Green Apple project in your community

BASF teams up with USGBC Minnesota for Green Apple Day of Service

Published on: 
Thursday, October 26, 2017
Kathy Higgins

Looking for a way for your organization to support sustainable education and green schools? Ten BASF employees had the opportunity to give back to the community and have fun at the same time, when they volunteered with USGBC Minnesota on a Green Apple Day of Service project.

At the new outdoor classroom at Washburn Elementary School in Bloomington, USGBC Minnesota kicked off their Green Apple Day season with approximately 470 students throughout the one-day event. Students learned about compost, collected insect and pollinator dat, and studied trees.

Washburn Elementary School

BASF volunteers helped usher kids from one station to the next and assisted mentor teachers with materials and supplies. When BASF’s science education department heard about the event, they enthusiastically donated 470 BASF Kids’ Lab backpacks and aprons for the students’ outdoor adventure.

Washburn Elementary School

Creating chemistry for a sustainable future is BASF’s corporate strategy, and BASF has been a member of USGBC since 2003. BASF’s construction systems business, based in Shakopee, Minnesota, inhabits a LEED Silver office. The team of 10 from Shakopee split up into two three-hour-long shifts. Seeing so many children learning about sustainability in an outdoor setting was truly exciting for the participants.

The final impact stats for the day are impressive, and the BASF team is looking forward to the next event.

Register your own Green Apple project