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Healthier, Wealthier and Wiser: The Case for Creating Green Schools Now

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Today, millions of children and teachers go to school every day in unhealthy, inefficient schools that waste money, make kids sick and provide poor environments for learning. The state of aging school infrastructure is truly a national travesty. When I first visited New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina to see how my environmental organization Global Green could help rebuild the city green, I toured a local high school and was overwhelmed to discover such decay and disrepair. I later learned this didn't result from the storm, but from years of neglect. Sadly this is not an isolated school or city.

Fortunately, we do have the solutions to help rebuild our schools to be healthy, efficient and productive centers of learning. California is leading the way with $100 million dollars in bond money to support building green schools and Los Angeles Unified is building all of its new schools to healthy green standards. New Orleans is considering doing the same and now Congress has approved $40 billion in the stimulus package to build green schools.

To help drive national awareness about the need to build green schools, Global Green is hosting its Sixth Annual Pre-Oscar® party in Hollywood, CA on February 19th. Sheryl Crow, who recently performed at the Huffington Post Pre-Inaugural party co-sponsored by Global Green, will perform along with Gavin Rossdale (lead singer from Bush). For ticket information visit www.globalgreen.org/oscars.

For the past six years, I've been proud to collaborate with Global Green Board members Leonardo DiCaprio, Edward Norton, photographer and climate activist Sebastian Copeland and supporters including Salma Hayek, Orlando Bloom and Penelope Cruz among others to help raise global awareness of smart solutions to global warming -- from plug-in hybrid cars that get 100+ mpg to green affordable homes that can save hundreds of dollars on annual electric bills to the importance of voting green.

Its exciting to finally be able to promote climate policy solutions like green schools that are not only good ideas for our health, economy, national security and environment, but are finally being embraced by our political leaders in Congress and the White House. The current Congressional stimulus package includes a $40 billion dollar investment in green schools -- a good start on reinvesting in our future from those who we are borrowing so much from to get out of our financial meltdown.

Global Green USA has been pioneering smart climate solutions for schools, homes and communities for more than a decade and has helped more than 40,000 students by greening hundreds of millions of dollars of green school construction in California and New Orleans. Building Green Schools is one of the most effective ways to improve academic performance, improve health and lower costs of operating schools.

With the support of the Annenberg Foundation, Global Green has already partnered with the LA Unified School District to build more than 34 new green schools resulting in:

• 25,000 students and staff benefit from reduced exposure to air pollutants
such as formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds, many of which are
asthma triggers
• 23,600 children provided with improved learning environments through the
provision of natural daylight and improved acoustics
• 38,779 tons of carbon dioxide emissions avoided - equivalent to planting
116,338 trees annually, or removing 6,463 cars from the road each year

These statistics are impressive, but more importantly, Green Schools protect and improve student and teacher health, improve student performance (by as much as 25%), lower operating costs (20-40%) and provide a unique educational opportunity to have the classroom and school serve as a teaching opportunity.

In New Orleans, where we've put forward a vision of building a sustainable, green city, Global Green received a grant from the Bush Clinton Katrina Fund to similarly help rebuild green schools and return students and teachers to healthier, more productive classrooms than they had even pre-Katrina. For an investment of just $75,000 in energy improvements, we've been able to save schools on average $25,000 per year in electricity costs (a three year payback).

As the Congress deliberates the largest stimulus package in history, there is no single better investment that we can make than to help maximize the potential learning and productivity of our children.

For more information on Global Green, Green Schools or the Pre-Oscar® party visit www.globalgreen.org. To purchase tickets to see Sheryl Crow and Gavin Rossdale visit www.globalgreen.org/oscars.

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