You know how important it is to make our schools healthy places to learn and work. You also know how urgent it is to protect and repair our environment.
But the fact is, change takes time. Ugh! What’s a school sustainability champion to do?
Well, I’m here to tell you that you have to keep at it. You must keep going. Eventually, change really does happen. There will be a point where your advocacy and someone else’s decision-making authority intersect, and the information you’ve been sharing will be critical.
As discussed in my recent post, updating your elected officials and school leaders with information about needs and potential solutions lays the groundwork for your relationship. Trust is built, and you can become a key partner in building consensus for action.
My school district, Fairfax County Public Schools, is the 10th largest in the United States. Changing systems takes time, especially when systems are large. While we have an award-winning environmental stewardship program, until recently, our district didn’t have stewardship-focused language in our “capital improvement plan” — the document that lays out how the district will address future facility needs.
In recent years, advocacy efforts have risen to prompt our school board to adopt policy in that plan that speaks directly to stewardship.
One group, Solar on the Schools, has been sharing information about local events to educate decision makers and the public. Also, a group of students at one of our high schools has been steadfast in its advocacy for solar panels. A school board member said of their input: “Your research, your advocacy, and just coming out and sharing all of that with us tonight, I really can’t thank you enough.”
This continued advocacy contributed to the school board adopting language in January 2018 that puts environmental stewardship into the district’s capital improvement plan! The policy will now be there to guide decision makers.
Offering helpful information with a consistent and persistent approach is a tried-and-true method for advocates seeking to create more healthy and sustainable schools.
Photo caption: James Madison High School students Casey Grage, Joyce Cheng, and Sam Ressin pressed the Fairfax County School Board on Jan. 21 to install solar panels at Washington Irving Middle School in Springfield. Photo credit, Inside NoVA.
This is Part Two of the Green Schools Alliance Blog Series, Everyday Advocacy, about how to adopt an advocacy practice as a foundational part of your work.