The Center for Green Schools operates within a non-profit called the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). While the Center has a mission that is focused on schools and the students who attend them, USGBC’s broader mission is to create green buildings and communities for all, believing that everyone is entitled to live, breathe, learn and work in a healthy, sustainable environment.
USGBC’s President and CEO, Rick Fedrizzi, is the husband of a teacher and the father of two children. His belief that youth throughout the world are the most important people affected by our mission was the inspiration for the creation of the Center for Green Schools and also why, in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, he made a commitment to the Haitian people to build a LEED Platinum orphanage in Port au Prince.
Now, two years after the devastation, the orphanage and children’s center that we call “Project Haiti” is well underway. Partners such as HOK (our pro-bono design partner) and Fondation Enfant Jesus (a local non-profit) are helping us to build a world-class orphanage that will show the precious occupants they are valued, safe, cared for and deserving – just like other children throughout the world. When completed, the orphanage will be home to dozens of orphans, serving their immediate health and emotional needs, and offering a pathway to adoption.
When I speak to people about the benefits of green living and learning environments, I often talk about raising a generation of “sustainability natives” – citizens who are fluent in the language of green and intuitively make choices to use what they need, not what they can. In many ways, the people of Haiti are true sustainability natives, living on untamed earth and wasting nothing.
Our hope for Project Haiti is that we can demonstrate that rebuilding in the wake of natural disasters can be environmentally and financially sustainable, while remaining sensitive to local culture and community values.
Project Haiti is about creating a resilient, replicable model of rebirth for a country that needs it most. As we make our way into a new year, I encourage you to make an impact toward this meaningful cause. Talk to your children about what happened in Haiti and learn more about how you can help. Because at the end of the day, creating a healthy, safe environment for our children is the most important work we can do. Visit usgbc.org/haiti for more information.
Rachel Gutter is the director of the Center for Green Schools and is an experienced teacher and green building consultant.