Sustainable schools services

Schools around the world are rising to the challenge outlined by the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. One component of that challenge is to demonstrate sustainability through campus operation. With experience in both corporate and school settings, Decoding Sustainability has a range of entry points for schools wherever they are in this journey.

  • Sustainability Awareness Walkabout - a starter entry point providing a sustainability-specific lens to view your campus

  • Capacity Building Coaching - a middle entry point to develop internal capacity for sustainable operation

  • Sustainability Roadmap - a high entry point to generate a long-term, actionable, and structured vision for sustainability at your school

  • Customized Support - a tailored solution to fit specific needs, whether it be topic specific (e.g. recycling program development) or some combination of the above.


Sustainability awareness walkabout


For schools looking to develop their ability to observe the school through the lens of sustainability, a sustainability awareness workshop can provide substantial benefit. The key focus of the workshop is exploring the campus through the lens of sustainability, where I share what I see when looking at the landscape, the buildings, and your community. The value of this exercise will depend on your desired area of focus:

  • For teachers and curriculum leaders this sharing exercise can be helpful for sparking ideas on how to connect the campus and community to learning (i.e. the living laboratory concept)

  • For operational leaders this sharing exercise can provide a crash course in opportunities to use research-backed sustainability concepts to lift the learning foundation and/or to demonstrate sustainable performance to students in their daily interactions with the campus.

  • For student leaders this sharing exercise can serve as a platform for generating ideas on how they can leave a lasting positive impact on their local community as well as providing a glimpse towards how their actions impact the global community.

Typical Duration:

Portion to Full Day. Walkabouts will vary on school size and desired depth of discussion, but assume 2 hours on average. Multiple walkabouts can be run with tailored focuses (e.g. teacher, operation, students, parents) and participation per walkabout is strongly suggested at no more than 10 to keep discussions purposeful and moving along.

Approximate Cost: 750 to 1,500 USD + Travel

capacity building Coaching


Has your school started a number of sustainability-related initiatives such as recycling or composting, but found they fell by the wayside whenever the student or teacher championing the initiative leaves or needs to divert their attention back to the classroom? This is the most common critique I hear from school leadership and teachers alike. My approach is to take a play out of the business and university playbook - build the capacity to sustain those initiatives from within. Look inside your organization, is there someone that fits this description: positive, flexible, self-sufficient, and mission driven to make a positive impact for people and the planet? If so you may have all that is needed to start - do not forget those trailing spouses - they can be a gold mine in this regard. My recommendation is for school’s to consider the sustainability champion a part-time position reporting directly to school leadership and see how it develops from there.

I provide one-on-one coaching with the identified individual to build their capacity as the school’s sustainability champion enabling them to develop and manage the school’s operational sustainability program in a holistic structured manner. While the specific capacities to be built will differ depending on the school and individual, example focus areas would include:

  • Basic foundation in the operational sustainability concepts, best practices, standards and metrics covering building operation and design, energy, waste, water, transportation, climate change, and procurement (including recommended resources);

  • Methods to community, engage and empower students, staff and other portions of the community to make a positive impact on campus;

  • Common barriers and how (and when) to bust them down - includes basics in business case development; and,

  • Campus as a living laboratory concept.

The initial coaching session is recommended to be in-person to train observational awareness using sustainability as the lens with follow-up coaching to be in-person or remote to lower the impact (and cost).

From my experience, you’ll find building capacity within your school will generate more sustainable results than having an expert on-site once or twice a year as operational sustainability requires someone to champion change on a day-to-day basis.

Typical Duration:

  • Initial coaching - 2 days

  • Subsequent coaching - 40 hours (on-site or remote as a weekly check-up)

Approximate Cost: 6,500 USD + Travel

Additional benefit of gaining access to a growing network of sustainable school champions with which to share best practices and strategies.

sustainability roadmap

For schools with a desire and commitment to their current students and the ones that will follow to operate in a sustainable manner, there are two common barriers:

  • “We have been started a number of initiatives, but everything seems disconnected and ad-hoc.”

  • “We know we should be looking at energy, water, waste and the like, but do not know where or how to start.”

To these concerns my response is to take a step back and address the route issue - identification of a long-term holistic vision for sustainability to serve as your overarching guide. The approach to create this vision or Roadmap follows the same process regardless of your school’s location, size, and focus - how those steps are implemented will vary to best fit the organization. For those interested in becoming an Eco-School or Green School Alliance Sustainability Steward, this process can get you there as well.

  1. Form a multi-stakeholder sustainability working group to drive and provide overall responsibility for this process

  2. Establish a set of topic relevant and important to your school. Existing frameworks to look at for inspiration include the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating Systems, Eco-Schools, United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and custom roadmaps such as Harvard’s.

  3. Engage the community to confirm the topics picked are the correct ones. This activity is referred to a materiality assessment and is considered critical to ensure the organization is focusing on the issues that matter to it the most. See THIS example from Unilever.

  4. For each topic answer two question: where we are today in comparison to best practices and leaders? where do we want to be in five or ten years? From those answers develop goals and commitments that will be the basis for your Roadmap. Some organizations may prefer to dive straight into action planning at this juncture.

  5. Engage the community to provide insight and feedback on the goals and commitments / action plan. This step also serves as a great method of getting the community excited about the vision - a first step is embedding sustainability into the culture.

  6. Review feedback, adjust, finalize, and communicate the Roadmap.

Decoding Sustainability will serve as facilitator for the entirety of the process, supporting your school successfully navigate each step in a manner that best suits your particular school organization and culture. Decoding Sustainability will also lend expertise in the benchmark exercise - a sampling of information provide shown on the right (click to make the image full size).

Typical Duration:

  • 2 weeks to a few months depending on extent of community engagement. Primary on-site activities:

    • Group working session - 2 days on-site

    • Action planning (optional) - 1 to 2 days on-site

Approximate Cost: 10,000 to 20,000 USD + Travel