While there are a lot of ways schools can tackle the issue of sustainability, many K-12 schools are utilizing technology – especially distance learning –  to be more sustainable, according to a new white paper from Verizon.

One K-12 sustainability certification program highlighted by the white paper is the Sustainable Jersey for Schools program, which has more than 1,000 schools – about 64 percent of all New Jersey public school districts – participating. The program measures more than 100 actions schools can take to be more sustainable and includes a new certification tier called the “Digital Schools Star.”

The Digital Schools Star recognizes the critical role of technology in schools, and specifically, the importance of distance learning.

“It’s vital that teachers know how to use remote learning effectively, that schools are safely and securely wired and connected, and that students can master technology,” said Randall Solomon, the executive director of Sustainable Jersey. “Digital learning is a critical part of sustainability because if students aren’t prepared to succeed in a technology-infused world, then we’re not going to have a sustainable future.”

Solomon said digital literacy – and eliminating the digital divide – is important to not only help set students up for personal success but also to benefit the larger community.

“Sustainability means addressing and eliminating differential access to digital learning and mastery of technology,” Solomon said. “Digital literacy will affect our students’ ability to engage as members of a community, have their voices heard – and engage in government and community life.”

The New Jersey program is just one sustainable K-12 program, but there are several other Federal, state, and local programs that focus on similar areas. The white paper noted that sustainability initiatives “are growing” across K-12 schools, with more schools pledging to reduce their environmental impact.

“Schools have the flexibility to tackle the initiatives that are most important to their stakeholders, and to commit the level of resources within their capabilities,” the white paper says. “But the ultimate goal is clear – to be more sustainable and to inspire a sustainable mindset among younger learners.”

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