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

Teach environmental literacy with Green Apple Day of Service

Published on: 
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Kristen Keim

Youth who are educated about sustainability and the environment help move us toward a society that considers the environmental impact of its everyday actions. Additionally, today’s younger generations must be literate in sustainability to compete in the growing green job market. Green Apple Day of Service is a great way to start implementing sustainability education in a school.

See our tips on how to educate for environmental and sustainability literacy as a Green Apple project.

Take a look at how these inspiring 2016 projects in Mexico implemented their ideas:

Green building education at Instituto Mater

Bioconstrucción, a green construction company in Mexico, dedicated a day to educating students and staff of Instituto Mater in Nuevo León about sustainability. The company was invited by the school to offer instruction on sustainable practices, such as identifying efficient A/C systems, insulating around windows to maintain the building temperature and using building orientation to maximize natural light and water collection. Using these tips, the school crafted a plan to remodel their buildings to be more sustainable.

Green Apple Day of Service with Bioconstruccion

Afterward, Bioconstrucción invited the students, ages 4 to 15, and staff to tour the company’s LEED Platinum building to learn what sustainable construction and green practices looked like in action. They provided advice for the school staff to promote and practice sustainability and provided information on the Green Classroom Professional certificate program available through USGBC.

As a result of the Green Apple Day of Service project, Instituto Mater has made a commitment to creating a more sustainable environment for their students, including incorporating sustainability into their educational program. The school also enhanced this commitment by enrolling teachers in Learning Lab, an online platform for teachers to find and use sustainability and STEM-based lessons.

Creative competitions with Escuela Promesa

As part of their 2016 Green Apple Day of Service program, Escuela Promesa, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching students about environmental education, challenged 90 schools (and their 61,490 students!) to participate in a “Google and SUMe” competition. SUMe is a partner organization dedicated to green building in Mexico. Two competitions were presented to schools, each based on age group, which challenged students to think about sustainability and the actions they could take to make a positive impact.

Green Apple Day of Service with Escuela Promesa

In the elementary schools, students created a story that that described the changes they could make in their own homes to make them more sustainable. Middle and high school students made videos explaining their vision of a sustainable city and the practices that their own cities would need to enact to reach that vision. Eight schools were recognized for their level of participation in the competition, and the winners were given certificates, plants for their school and (for the older students) a tour of the LEED Gold Google Mexico office.

These two projects in Mexico reflect how Green Apple projects can prepare students worldwide, through education, to face future environmental challenges.

Register a Green Apple Day of Service project

Reviving a school garden with Green Apple Day of Service

Published on: 
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Kristen Keim

Outdoor classrooms allow students to connect with nature and learn about plant cycles and wildlife habitats. Getting outside also grants teachers the opportunity to offer hands-on activities that can only take place in an outdoor setting. Green Apple Day of Service is a perfect time to create an outdoor classroom garden, or to make improvements to one you already have.

See our tips on how to create or tend a school garden for a Green Apple project.

Clover Hill Elementary School in Midlothian, Virginia, knows the importance of an outdoor space for students to connect with nature. However, their outdoor classroom had become overgrown and rarely used. The school decided to restore the space during their Green Apple Day of Service to make it more accessible to students and teachers—and to the wildlife within the space.

Clover Hill Green Apple Day of Service project

Clover Hill gathered students, parents and staff volunteers to replace overgrown weeds with native plants, mulch the area and build a podium and benches. All this work revived the outdoor classroom, creating a welcoming space for students and teachers to gather for lessons. With the hard work done, the students decided to open up the space to the community, to take what they learned about sustainability and habitat restoration and share it with their whole neighborhood.

Clover Hill Green Apple Day of Service project

The new outdoor classroom encourages students and families to spend time connecting with nature. The students’ passion in restoring their outdoor space and their dedication to sharing with the larger community have inspired the parents and project volunteers. A recent NOAA Bay Backpack article also covered the project.

Does your school need an outdoor classroom, or do you already have one that needs a makeover? For more help planning your project, check out the Green Apple Day of Service project checklist.

Create a Green Apple project

Students learn about wetlands for Green Apple Day of Service (USGBC Central Pennsylvania)

Published on: 
Friday, September 29, 2017
Heidi Kunka

Every day on my commute, I pass my local school district, Susquenita, and then the mighty Susquehanna River. The Susquehanna is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the nation’s largest estuary—and the Susquenita school district has wetlands on its property that are directly connected to the river and the bay. This connection gave me the idea for a Green Apple Day of Service project for USGBC Central Pennsylvania.

As an environmental scientist, my husband Greg performs wetland delineations, so I decided to recruit him to lead a mock wetland delineation for students at our local school district. I also found a biology teacher at the middle school who was interested in helping me coordinate this activity for a Green Apple event.

On September 21, Greg, along with his coworker Melissa, joined me for the event at Susquenita School District. Fifteen students participated from middle and high school. We described to the students the paths of our careers in the environmental industry. Since career pathways are part of pillar three in the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools program, it was important to have that preliminary discussion.

USGBC Central Pennsylvania wetlands Green Apple project

Next, Greg and Melissa talked about why wetlands are important and how to identify them. Wetlands are not only a habitat for animals, but also a natural filtration system for water before it enters our rivers. They also help to control floods. Students learned the criteria for defining a wetland: 1) water, or signs of water; 2) hydrophytic vegetation (plants that love water), and 3) hydric soils (they show signs of being wet and without oxygen, or anoxic environments).

Armed with this knowledge, as well as site-specific plant identification guides created by Greg, the students went out onto their school property to observe a wetland firsthand. Greg and Melissa showed the students how to use an auger to dig down into the soil and observe its profile for signs of hydric soils (reddish colors, similar to rust, occur where oxygen is not present). They also helped the students identify the wetland plants and place delineation flags in the ground to identify the boundaries of the wetland.

USGBC Central Pennsylvania wetlands Green Apple project

To close out our wetland delineation, I reminded students that everything is connected in this great “circle of life”—that this wetland on their school property connects to the Susquehanna River, which is in turn part of the largest estuary in the United States. It is my hope that the students will remember our activity and how important wetlands are, motivating them to be caretakers of this planet.

Green Apple events will be occurring at K–12 schools in Central Pennsylvania through April 2018. If your company, organization or school is interested in organizing a Green Apple Day of Service event, please email Heidi Kunka or call 202.706.0836, and we’d be glad to assist.

Learn more about Green Apple projects

Find the funds to complete your Green Apple Day of Service project

Published on: 
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Kristen Keim

Green Apple Day of Service is off and running in states and countries around the globe. Many project ideas can be implemented with volunteer service and donated materials; others require a financial investment. If you need funding for your project, here are some opportunities and resources to help.

Our Green Apple Project Checklist covers each step of making your project happen, from getting it off the ground and enlisting volunteers to executing the event. ”Part Two: Putting the Pieces Together” provides tips for creating a budget and raising funds.

Because these service projects unite parents, teachers, students, companies and local organizations to transform our schools into healthy and sustainable learning environments, they are often attractive to prospective funders, such as companies, foundations or individual donors.

For first-time fundraisers, it’s good to familiarize yourself with your options. You’ll want to know the difference between sponsorship and donations, according to the IRS:

  • In a sponsorship, the business or persons giving money receives a benefit from the donation. That money will only be tax-deductible if the donation given exceeds the market value of the benefit the sponsor is given.
  • A donation is given without any benefit for the donor and is tax-deductible. Grants are a great way to receive funding for your projects.

Organizations willing to fund projects require an application and have deadlines for applying. Here’s a few we think are tailor-made for funding Green Apple Day of Service projects. Read closely to ensure you meet grant requirements and deadlines:

  • Miron, a construction company, is offering $1,000 to the winner of its “Be Green in ‘17” contest. To apply, create a one-minute video explaining how your school would use the money to go green and upload it to your school's Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram page. The contest runs through October 20, with the winner announced on November 3. Visit Miron's video contest page for details.
  • The Nature Conservancy is donating 60 individual $2,000 grants to schools where students are creating solutions to environmental challenges in their community. Check out The Nature Conservancy's info page for more information. The deadline to apply is November 3, and winners will be announced November 30.
  • Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation awards grants from $2,000 to $100,000 to projects that upgrade their school’s technology, renovate the school and improve safety or provide tools for STEM programs. The applications close September 29. Visit the Lowe's grant page to learn more.
  • Home Depot grants up to $5,000 to schools looking to repair, refurbish or modify the school building or weatherize or improve its energy efficiency. As a school, you would fill out the "government" application on Home Depot’s grant information page.
  • Staples gives grants of up to $25,000. Through its 2 Million and Change program, Staples creates a chance for local employees to nominate projects for a grant. Visit 2 Million and Change for more information.
  • Walmart provides $250 to $2,500 through its foundation. To qualify, you just need to submit an application. The application deadline for this year is December 31. Visit the Walmart Foundations grant page to apply.

Visit the Green Apple project guide