Youth Sustainability Leaders from Across the U.S. to Close Out the 2020 Green Schools Conference & Expo

Published on: 
Monday, January 27, 2020
Amanda Komar

Annual green schools conference will celebrate its 10th year of advocating for healthier, more sustainable schools

WASHINGTON, D.C. – (Jan. 27, 2020) – Today, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced that a panel of youth sustainability leaders will provide an engaging luncheon discussion to close out the annual Green Schools Conference & Expo (GSCE). GSCE is celebrating its 10th year, and is the only national event to bring together people who lead, operate, build and teach in U.S. schools. The conference is taking place from March 2-4, 2020, at the Hilton Portland Downtown in Portland, Oregon, and registration is currently open.

“The youth climate movement has inspired leadership from today’s youth across the globe, from organized marches, to communication campaigns, to school climate strikes. These actions are energizing and changing the mindset of students and adults alike,” said Anisa Heming, director of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC. “We hope through the voices of their peers, students will be encouraged and feel empowered to lead local and global sustainability.”

Moderated by Portland, Oregon, high school teacher Tim Swinehart, the panel will feature Lily Gardner, a high school junior from Kentucky and a director for Sunrise Movement, and Rayan Krishnan, an undergraduate student at Stanford University and creator of the educational video game Operation Sustain. The discussion will focus on leadership, environmental activism and entrepreneurship in an age where an increasing number of young people are taking a stand for the future of the climate.

Gardner serves as the state policy director for Kentucky Youth Climate Strike, is a hub coordinator of Sunrise Lexington and sits on the Bluegrass Youth Sustainability Council, in addition to her work with Sunrise Movement. Recently, Gardner planned the Climate Strike in Louisville, Kentucky, drawing a large crowd of passionate youth and adults alike. Since then, she has trained high school students from across the country in community organizing for the climate change movement, and served on the Youth Climate Coalition, the coordinating body tasked with planning upcoming Earth Day events.

Krishnan, originally from Sammamish, Washington, grew up with an appreciation for the natural environment. After the U.S. government’s announcement to exit the Paris Accord, Kirshnan worked with his high school’s administration to meet the carbon emissions reduction goals of the Accord for his school. He formed the organization Schools Under 2 degrees C to challenge other schools to also focus on reducing their carbon emissions. In addition, he created the interactive game, Operation Sustain, as a way to help young students learn about climate issues, sustainability and how they can make an impact.

The panel’s moderator, Tim Swinehart, teaches Environmental Justice and International Baccalaureate (IB) Geography at Lincoln High School in Portland, Oregon, and is the recipient of the 2015 Oregon Outstanding Social Studies Teacher of the Year award. In 2016, he helped create Portland Public Schools’ first-in-the-nation climate justice education policy and has served on the school district’s Climate Justice Committee for the last three years. Swinehart is a proponent for climate justice education that empowers students to act as leaders for social and environmental justice, and his work as an environmental justice educator has been featured in The New York Times, YES! Magazine and NEA Today.

The conference will open with TV personality and science communicator Danni Washington on March 2. Washington’s work focuses on engaging young students to further their understanding of nature and empowering the next generation of scientists, communicators and conservationists.

GSCE is the largest gathering of green schools advocates in the country and supports the three pillars of green schools: environmental impact, health impact and environmental and sustainability literacy. The GSCE program is available online and was designed to provide the lessons, tools and resources needed to transform schools into healthier, more sustainable places to learn, work and play. Education sessions at GSCE feature experts that will discuss building occupant and student engagement, healthy indoor air quality, accessibility to school environmental programs, waste management, energy conservation and other topics related to sustainability in schools.

GSCE is produced in partnership between the Center for Green Schools at USGBC and the Green Schools National Network (GSNN). The two organizations share a common goal to help make schools healthy, sustainable learning environments for students.