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.