Feature image: The Best of Green Schools Awards winners. Photo credit: Zack Smith Photography.
From Feb. 27 to March 1, more than 400 attendees gathered in New Orleans to celebrate the highly anticipated return of the in-person Green Schools Conference (GSC). The reimagined experience hosted by the Center for Green Schools was jam-packed with dedicated time for attendees, partners and sponsors to network and reconnect. Over two and a half days of immersive learning, meaningful peer-to-peer conversations were had and engaging interdisciplinary content explored.
The 2023 event kicked off with an interactive preconference workshop on the TRUE zero waste rating system at the Academy of the Sacred Heart and a tour of the LEED Gold Louisiana Children’s Museum, co-hosted by USGBC Louisiana.
Conference education began the afternoon of Feb. 27, with attendees gathering over two days for peer-to-peer programming expertly curated to allow time for stakeholder groups (educators and school leaders; school facilities staff; green building design professionals; and government, nonprofit and green school advocates) to fully leverage the collective knowledge of the community and exchange insights and strategies. On March 1, everyone came together for interdisciplinary sessions and networking opportunities to work toward solutions across disciplines and organizations.
Melissa Carroll, a GSC attendee and the resource/energy manager for the Thompson School District in Loveland, Colorado, reflects on her experience at the 2023 event: “Getting together for this conference and spending time with peers in person reignited a spark and gave me a renewed motivation for why we do what we do, how we can do it better, and helped me remember that I am not alone in my struggles and efforts!”
In addition to the peer-to-peer learning and interdisciplinary educational sessions, the schedule provided ways for attendees to reinvigorate and reconnect through mainstage speakers.
The 2023 GSC mainstage featured a panel discussion on “The Past, Present and Future of Green Schools in New Orleans,” featuring the leadership of Avis Williams, Ph.D., the superintendent of New Orleans Public Schools; Tiffany Delcour, chief operating officer of nonprofit organization New Schools for New Orleans; and Dana Peterson, CEO of the same organization. The panel was moderated by Jenny Seydel, executive director of the Green Schools National Network (GSNN).
The panel discussion on New Orleans schools. Image credit: Zack Smith Photography.
The conversation covered the impacts of major stressors like the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Katrina, as well as how adversity can drive innovation and social equity. The lively dialogue set the stage for a keynote presentation from Charles Eisenstein that encouraged the audience to remember what attracted them to sustainability and the green schools movement.
Keynote speaker Charles Eisenstein. Image credit: Zack Smith Photography.
At the Green Schools Awards Luncheon on March 1, attendees celebrated the 2023 recipients of the Best of Green Schools (BOGS) Awards, which are co-presented by the Center for Green Schools and GSNN. The BOGS awards represent the best environmental efforts in schools across the country and highlight national leaders in school sustainability. The Famous Singing Pirates represented the BOGS winner for K–12 School, Park Forest Elementary Creative Sciences and Arts Magnet School, with an energetic performance under the direction of Dominique Gibbs, to kick off the awards luncheon.
The Famous Singing Pirates perform at the awards luncheon. Image credit: Zack Smith Photography.
Learn more about the 2023 Best of Green Schools winners:
- K–12 School: Park Forest Elementary Creative Sciences and Arts Magnet (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
- K–12 School: H-Farm International School (Roncade, Italy)
- School System: Boulder Valley School District (Boulder, Colorado)
- School System: Newark Board of Education (Newark, New Jersey)
- Ambassador: Dr. Gerald Lieberman, State Education and Environmental Roundtable (Poway, California)
- Michelle Curreri Collaborator: Hope Gribble, USGBC Missouri Gateway
- Policy Maker: Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., The Living Schoolyards Act
- Transformation: U.S. Department of Education
- Business Leader: CMTA
- Student Leader: Trustee Shiva Rajbhandari, Boise School District Board of Trustees (Boise, Idaho)
- K–12 Educator: Dawn A. Eiacho, Zuni High School (Zuni, New Mexico)
- Moment for the Movement: K12 Climate Action with the Aspen Institute
The 2024 GSCE location will be announced in the coming months and the call for proposals will open soon.