This is why we do it. This is why we get to work early and this is why we stay late. This is why we work our hearts out nurturing relationships, scrupulously discovering and creating the newest green schools research and wracking our brains about how to be bigger, better and bolder. Because it matters.
While I sit at my desk doing all of the above every day, it’s a rare and momentous occasion when I get to feel with overwhelming power the fruit of our labor and the significance of our work at USGBC. In actuality, I feel this more often than many–when I make that electric connection with someone halfway around the world who is equally passionate about my passions. Someone who shares the sentimentality that I do and the impulse to provide for every child an inspiring and enabling place to learn. Sometimes that comes from a conversation about the social barriers to educating girls in a small rural town in Kenya, sometimes it comes from discovering an ultra high-tech green school in Singapore and sometimes it just comes from someone who wants to help. But for me, inspiration in its truest form comes from days like the Green Apple Day of Service when I am living my work. Days when I am touring an inconceivably eco-outfitted school and speaking about all of this to a crowd of 1,100 high school Hong Kong boys.
This year on Green Apple Day of Service, I visited Sing Yin Secondary School in Hong Kong. The campus is full of wind turbines, temperature monitoring systems and solar panels every which way. A green roof, LED lights, fiber-optic lights in the classrooms, windows that acted as sound barriers to the bustling walls and even a bamboo garden. Automatic motion sensors, temperature controls in every classroom and skylights everywhere. Not to mention a full-fledged aquarium “to de-stress the students.” The green technology seemed endless.
I delivered a speech to the school teachers, students, administrators and the Hong Kong Green Building Council. I told them that they were joining a global movement, an army of students who cared deeply and acted passionately about the same things they did. I told them they were not alone in this, and with their great education comes great responsibility to become global leaders.
When I had finished the speech, I met with some of the students who showed me an exhibit of endangered species that they had procured for the event. The exhibit had been displayed in a convention center in the city for two days with students teaching visitors about the animals in it. As I spoke with the students, I had a moment where I took off my USGBC hat and just connected with them, person to person. They asked about what the classrooms were like in Colombia and what we did for the last Green Apple Day of Service, as I had referenced this in my speech. I loved their honest curiosity. The principal even approached me and commented that he was stunned to hear that there are schools in the states with windowless classrooms.
Having the opportunity to speak with people from across the world from where I spend my days, and realizing what we have in common and what we're all working for was the greatest reminder of how much we have to teach to and how much we have to learn from each other.