For cash-strapped schools, a green retrofit can seem like a pipe dream. But there are outside funding sources -- private donations and corporate donors -- dedicated to reducing the carbon footprints. Federal and state governments are also prepared to write checks for administrators ready to improve their schools' eco-profiles. Sean Miller, of the Earth Day Network, suggests these five sources as a start:
- Earth Day Network Grant Programs give schools $500–$3,500 to work on school-greening projects such as schoolyard improvements, implementing environmental education, performing civic action, and achieving needed policy reform.
- U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Excellence in Green Building Curriculum Incentive Grants reward innovative curricular activities with grants of up to $20,000. Also, the USGBC Green Building Research Fund offers $2 million in yearly grants, $500,000 of which has been allocated for K-12 school-facility research.
- BP's A+ for Energy Grant funds are awarded to teachers using innovative teaching methods to address energy and energy-conservation issues in their classrooms. Past projects enabled schools across California to turn food scraps into ethanol, create solar-powered cars, hold energy festivals, cook hot dogs with solar power, and build solar-powered hot-water systems. Applicants may apply for up to $10,000.
- The PG&E Solar School Bright Ideas Grant enables applicants to apply for grants of $1,000, $2,500, $5,000, or $10,000 for solar, renewable-energy, and professional-development projects.
- EPA Environmental Education Grants offer a wide range of awards that support schools bringing in environmental-education projects. Most grants are $15,000–$25,000.
Check with your local power company: Many have financial help tied to structure retrofits as well as money targeted at specific communities and counties.
"Green councils," often embedded within a state department of education, provide grants relating to eco-friendly building. Contact your state DOE for information.
The 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act (HR 2187), passed in May by the U.S. House of Representatives, would authorize $6.4 billion in fiscal year 2010 for school districts to modernize, renovate, and repair their buildings. The bill is expected to go before the Senate this fall.
James Daly is a northern California-based writer and the founding editor of Edutopia.