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Nonfiction in response to Climate Action
January 2019

The case for required green energy in schools

By Ilana Arougheti

Schools are generally seen as responsible for providing kids with formative experiences, life skills, global viewpoints and preparations for adulthood. Given the growing immediacy of climate change as a defining issue and clear danger, youth experience with green energy should begin in school.


Every public school in America should be required to compensate for some portion of its daily energy usage or waste output by installing some on-site source of clean energy. Solar panels could be an easy option, as could composters. This program, which could be accomplished through a combination of state grants and federal mandates, would represent a sustained national commitment to addressing the problems associated with climate change.


The hope is that students would be encouraged to take an active role in the installation, either by proposing a new energy system for their school, raising funds, or physically working with their school buildings. For older students who might already be engaged in community service through independent projects or larger organizations, this could be a great chance to take their existing skills and values close to home or explore the new outlet of environmental improvement. For those just beginning to get involved, new energy systems will provide quick and visible results, demonstrating that service and activism pay off and possibly inspiring future projects. For youngest students just beginning to move beyond critical thinking skills to general science education, new installations will serve as clear and relatable introductions to scientific subtopics like engineering and ecology, perhaps inspiring new areas of academic passion. We learn by doing, so why not get hands-on in a way that actually matters?


While it’s true that schools aren’t exactly one of the top culprits in the growth of global carbon footprints (here’s looking at you, air travel), small-scale actions are just as important as large-scale actions if we want to prevent the global temperature from rising upwards of 1.5 degrees in the coming years. The installation of clean energy systems in schools would prove that green power and waste management systems are feasible in localized iterations. Further, schools experienced with  environmentally friendly installations would instantly become valuable community resources that could teach or encourage nearby homes and businesses to follow suit. Peer pressure doesn’t always have to be negative, and pockets of sustainability can be not only a realistic goal, but a chance for bonding and a draw to potential new residents of a given town. The school districts involved may ultimately save money and may even be able to benefit from reputation as creative or cutting-edge groups.


Providing children hands-on experience with creating green energy doesn’t just continue the international discussion about climate change – it can also create a strong career market in fields relating to clean energy. During the Cold War, the United States Government rolled out nationwide changes to public middle school and high school STEM curriculums in order to supply “space race” industries like engineering and aeronautics with qualified new minds. Students who are given experience with thinking critically about the role of renewable energy become uniquely qualified in fields like architecture, where zero-waste “living buildings” are on the rise, and biology, where one can study micro-organisms that break down old plastics or work to minimize the role of environmental degradation on endangered species.


Climate change and education already share one important common feature: their improvement is essential to the future of society at large. Perhaps by combining them into mandatory clean energy usage or waste reduction within schools will be helpful twofold; in any case, we’ve reached the point where this sort of creative solution is hardly a long stretch.

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