Movement for All Students to be Schooled on Sustainability by 2040

Environmental leaders from USGBC are pushing for an education program that would make all students “sustainability literate” by the year 2040.

Environmental education is more important now than ever before.

We've started the talk about what type of world our kids inherit. A dirty, polluted one full of CO2 emissions or a greener, more energy-efficient world? Well, if those worries stem from the ground up, why don't some of our solutions? The U.S. Green Building Council is seeking to launch a massive project called the National Action Plan for Educating for Sustainability that would be a giant leap for reducing the carbon footprint.

The goal of the program is that all students would be educated for a sustainable future by 2040 through the integration of environment, economy and equity. It would incorporate the hands-on approach to apply systems thinking to problem-solving and decision making. 

"Education for Sustainability (EfS) empowers students to make decisions that balance the need to preserve healthy ecosystems with the need to promote vibrant economies and equitable social systems for all generations to come," program officials told Sustainable Business.

USGBC is a non-profit organization that has transformed one of the dirtiest industries of construction into a far greener one. Partnering with global education leader Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the organization designed an action plan outlining a strategy for all 50 states to adopt a comprehensive green schools policy that features a graduation requirement around sustainability literacy by 2040.

"When the U.S. Department of Education published its Green Ribbon Schools award, which called for all K-12 graduates to be environmentally literate, we received that as a directive for the community to band together and figure out how we will ensure that happens," Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC, told the source.

By establishing working groups, launching a funding campaign and distributing best-case models and materials, the project has been laying the groundwork for what could be a revolutionary new curriculum policy in education.

Here's a brief timeline of the project:

  • Come June, USGBC will form the U.S. Teacher Education for Sustainable Development Network.
  • By 2015, EfS-related content is to be included in the next version of the ISLLC 2008 Standards for educational leadership, incorporated by state policymakers.
  • The goal for 2020 is that EfS coaches should be available for all school districts, and that sustainability professionals would be members of leadership teams in school districts by 2023.
  • Thirty-five states would have a comprehensive green schools policy by 2025, which includes an EfS graduation requirement.

Though certainly an ambitious program, EfS is backed by hundreds of the brightest minds in environmental and education reform. Ilchi Lee, a New York Times best-selling author and dedicated advocate of a peaceful, sustainable world, agrees that this project is exactly what we need. The next generation inherits our triumphs and shortfalls, and creating an educational foundation based on a sustainable world gives them a head start in solving one of the stickiest global problems.