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African American and Hispanic elementary age little girls are building a windmill from a water bottle during an after school science program in a public elementary school library. Students are learning science, technology, engineering, and math while working on science project together.


The heart and health of any community can be measured by how it protects, educates, and prepares its youth for the future. Today’s five-year-olds will be 18 at their high school graduations in 2030. Schools provide an unmatched opportunity to set youths and entire neighborhoods on course for a better future. In the next 15 years, we will define the future of these youths, their communities, and the world.

dollars spent per year by K-12 schools on energy
school days missed each year due to asthma or issues related to poor insulation and air quality
U.S. schools suffer from poor indoor air quality
improvement in test scores in naturally lit environments

Our energy consumption in schools comes at the cost of our children’s education, and lack of access to new technologies is not arming them for jobs of the future.

In the United States, school buildings are the third-biggest energy user of all commercial building types, not only producing a lot of emissions but also costing a lot of money. Each year, K–12 schools spend $8 billion on energy—more than they spend on computers and textbooks combined. And many of our school buildings are not healthy. Children miss more than 14 million school days each year in the U.S. due to asthma or issues related to poor insulation, ventilation, and high levels of volatile organic compounds. And studies show that children learn better in well-lit classrooms kept at a comfortable temperature and with good indoor air quality.

A young boy is excited about saving money for the future

Improved Learning Through Better Buildings

High-performance school buildings can increase health, productivity, satisfaction, and happiness due to better lighting, access to nature and daylight, and improved comfort. Improving energy performance is also the best way to lower operation and maintenance costs, freeing up critical funds for teachers, textbooks, and educational programs. That’s why we are working with school districts to build higher efficiency and healthier schools.

Building “Communities of Practice” Across Caribbean Nations

Caribbean nations face similar challenges and opportunities in their transition to clean energy. But these islands are small, with few resources and professional development opportunities. With our partner, CARILEC, we provide island energy practitioners with direct access to subject matter experts, and with a mechanism to exchange lessons and learn from each other. The virtual forum connects and empowers users and offers 24/7 access to valuable resources that serve to strengthen a collective knowledge base that can propel careers and transform communities.

Transforming College Campuses

Whether it is helping Arizona State University develop a roadmap to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, supporting Appalachian State University in its pursuit of clean energy at e-Lab Accelerator, or providing ready access to resources on integrative design and goal-setting for campus sustainability officers and students alike, RMI understands that colleges and universities are where our next leaders form their ideas and insights about their future career paths. By making college campuses an embodiment of sustainability, environmental stewardship, and solutions for a clean energy future, we can not only reduce carbon emissions from campus operations but, more importantly, create an environment of inspiration and learning for the issues that shape these student's futures.

Helping Shape the Next Generation of Environmental Leaders

RMI has worked with Catawba College's Center for the Environment to organize a week-long cross-disciplinary national environmental summit for high school students. The summit is designed to offer a new way of thinking about environmental problems and to point the students toward skills that they can develop in each of those areas. RMI helps students take a whole-systems perspective and teaches the fundamentals of integrative design, while also bringing another essential component to the program: our deep experience guiding collaboration toward a common goal. Another unique teaching tool is RMI's Innovation Center, where staff has hosted tours for numerous classes (from elementary school to college), professional and trade groups, and camps, giving attendees an overview of the building’s passive, integrative design, and sharing key lessons learned by our design and construction team.

Who’s Joining Us to Make a Difference

With RMI’s help, the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) is embarking on an ambitious program to have its portfolio of over 50 school buildings be net-zero energy and achieve an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050.

If we reach all our goals in the bond, the entire district would be 29 percent more efficient, saving nearly $500,000 a year in utility bills. These savings could be used directly in the classrooms.

‐Jeff Medwetz, Project Manager of Energy Systems for BVSD

Stories from the Field

How Net-Zero Schools Can Improve Our Children's Education

We can cost-effectively improve our nation’s schools and enhance student performance by tackling the performance of the very buildings in which children, faculty, and staff spend more than eight hours each day. RMI discusses four benefits to investing in net-zero schools that extend far beyond energy cost savings.

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Boulder Valley School District on Way to Net-Zero Energy

RMI partnered with the Boulder Valley School District to have its portfolio of over 50 school buildings be net-zero energy and achieve an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050, as well as create roadmaps that can educate and potentially motivate other school districts throughout the state and country to strive for net-zero energy.

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Pursuing Climate Neutrality at Arizona State University

Arizona State University (ASU) is the largest school in the U.S., with 70,000 students and covering 1,550 acres of desert. Elaine Gallagher Adams explains how ASU partnered with Ameresco and Rocky Mountain Institute to craft an implementation plan for campus climate neutrality by 2025 and transportation neutrality by 2035.

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Support the Next Generation of Environmental Leaders

Their Future is in Our Hands.