Chancellor Banks Comments On Sustainability Efforts For Earth Day From Harlem To Harare

April 22, 2024

This Earth Day, New York City Public Schools continues to lead the charge to support climate and sustainability initiatives, in terms of our school operations and the educational experiences we provide our students. 

“From training our students for the green jobs of the future, to supporting the next generation of climate leaders through Climate Action Days, to increasing solar energy on our school rooftops and composting in our schools, I am proud that our students and staff are on the frontlines of the sustainability movement and taking on the climate crisis,” said Schools Chancellor David C. Banks. “The programs and efforts outlined today serve as a shining example of ways our school communities are stepping up to advance sustainability now, while learning and advocating for continued positive change in the process.”

Advancing Sustainability in Our Schools

NYCPS is working to reduce pollution from heat-trapping greenhouse gasses in buildings across the city.

These “decarbonization” initiatives include:

  • Installing rooftop solar arrays on as many schools as possible, to support our schools while protecting the atmosphere. With 90 solar projects completed, NYCPS is the greatest contributor to the city’s clean energy goals, contributing over 80% of total solar installed on City buildings to date. 
  • Working with our bus vendors, receiving over $60 million for 180 electric school buses from the EPA.
  • Upgrading lighting systems to LED lighting in 800 buildings to conserve energy and improve our learning environments in partnership with DCAS and NY Power Authority. 
  • Managing over 220 energy efficiency upgrade projects this year to improve mechanical and lighting equipment and systems, thereby reducing our environmental footprint by lowering building emissions. Examples include steam system optimization, pipe insulation, and demand control ventilation projects. 

Supporting the Next Generation of Climate Leaders

Climate education is a critical facet of our overarching commitment to school sustainability, as is preparing our students for the green jobs of the future. Climate and sustainability provide a lens for learning that can enhance curriculum across subjects and grades. 

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  • For the first time this year, students, staff, and families have taken part in Climate Action Days to showcase local school-based initiatives to increase awareness, interest, and engagement in climate action in a bigger way than ever before. 
  • Launched the first NYC Public Schools Climate Institute to support over 500 teachers to integrate climate topics within their classrooms, led in partnership with our teacher-led Climate Education Leadership Team. 
  • Launched a pilot course in our CTE programming, “Exploring Sustainability and the Green Economy” to prepare our students for green jobs. 
  • Working closely with Hertz in the integrating of electric vehicle maintenance and repair into automotive repair CTE programs
  • Providing green-focused Work-Based Learning opportunities for students and supporting SolarOne in recruiting students for solar work.
  • Hosting a Youth Climate Summit for high school teams of students and teachers on May 22 to further incubate student advocacy to drive school-based climate action. 

Day-to-Day Sustainability Initiatives

While measures to reduce polluting carbon emissions are focused on buildings and vehicles, climate action also includes the staff and students who occupy these spaces. Some initiatives that both reduce emissions in buildings and engage school communities include:

  • Awarded over $820,000 in grants and materials to 182 schools through our 8th Annual Sustainability Project Grant Program, to support school-based upgrades like water refill stations, hydroponic tower gardens, outdoor learning/school garden programs, climate educational programming, and other long-term sustainability projects. 
  • Facilitating Plastic Free Lunch Days in our elementary schools in partnership Cafeteria Culture, engaging students and families in reducing single-use plastics. 
  • Providing plant-forward meal options in the largest school food service operation in the country.

Photo credit: Source.

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