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In June, I had the honor of representing NJSBA at the 2015 New Jersey Sustainability Summit at The College of New Jersey. During the event, I participated in a session designed to answer the question, Is New Jersey’s education community moving in the right direction and instituting sustainable practices in our schools? My unequivocal response was “YES!”

As I noted during my presentation, the evidence is clear: Our schools are embracing practices designed to build healthy learning environments and conserve resources.

  • I see it each time a school district conducts an audit to reduce the use of electricity, gas or motor fuels.
  • I see it when boards of education institute paperless meetings.
  • I see it when schools reduce the waste generated in their cafeterias through composting.
  • And I see it when schools integrate these conservation efforts into STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) education and other subject areas.

This issue of School Leader features a special section on Green Schools, including an article, “Taking Action to Achieve Certification,” about Sustainable Jersey for Schools – a program that advances environmentally and financially sustainable practices, and recognizes schools that implement them.

NJSBA is a founding partner of Sustainable Jersey for Schools, which we launched last October at Workshop 2014. The program’s progress provides further evidence that public schools are serious when it comes to sustainable practices. Participation is growing exponentially. As of mid-June, 224 schools had enrolled in Sustainable Jersey. In comparison, it was just three months earlier, in March, when Sustainable Jersey reached the 100-school benchmark, which I thought was amazing.

Our commitment to sustainable practices extends to many other initiatives. For example, NJSBA is spearheading the New Jersey Sustainable Schools Project, which is providing research on the relationship between a healthier environment and student achievement. In addition, we are administering the New Jersey Green Program of Study, a pilot project that is developing a statewide technical education program for emerging “green” careers.

Not too long ago, the New Jersey Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council presented our Association with a “Special Impact Award for Education.” It commended NJSBA for being the only school boards association in the nation that has committed resources and personnel to sustainable practices. Today, we have a full-time STEAM and Sustainable Schools Specialist on staff: John Henry.

Real-life innovation is taking place in our schools, and there are no better examples than New Jersey’s 2015 Green Ribbon School honorees. This issue profiles the winning programs (“New Jersey’s Green Leaders”).

Whether the effort involves water conservation, single-stream recycling, or innovative curriculum that focuses students on reducing the carbon footprint, New Jersey’s schools are moving toward a green future…and, I am proud to say, NJSBA is standing behind them with research, support and training.

Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod NJSBA executive director