What the Green Apple Day of Service means to USGBC staff

Published on: 
August 25, 2015
Aline Althen

With just one more day to go until the fourth annual Green Apple Day of Service, we decided it would be good to reflect, personally, on what this occasion and movement has come to mean to us as staff members of USGBC.

The first person to volunteer her thoughts was Suzi Warren. Suzi is a Community Advancement Associate with USGBC’s National Capital Region and has a special history with the Green Apple Day of Service, having worked as a capacity organizer for the 2014 Day of Service. Here’s what she had to say:

The Center for Green Schools, the entity behind the Green Apple Day of Service, plans a service day of their own each year, and last year I had the privilege of attending this event. At the time, I was working for The Center doing outreach across the United States, encouraging volunteers to participate in this global movement. I had spent hours on the phone with strangers across the country explaining the event to those unfamiliar with it and encouraging them to get involved by planning an event of their own. I became intimately familiar with the Green Apple Day of Service before I had even attended an event of my own. 

When September 27, 2014 finally came around, I couldn’t believe that all the work we had done all summer was finally accumulating in a single day of service. I was excited to celebrate this occasion at our own service project and ready for the reward of all the hard work that had gone into planning not just this event, but the events all over the country. After several hours of planting, painting and workshops with local students, our team finally wrapped up the 2014 season of Green Apple Day of Service knowing we had made a difference in Washington, DC and around the world.  

It was at this point in the day when it hit me that all of the hard work we poured into Tubman Elementary School to make it a better, healthier and safer place for the students to work and play was not the full extent of the impact that day. Projects just like ours, and projects very unlike ours, had taken place all over the world. The magnitude of the impact of being part of a global movement had taken me by surprise and I truly felt it. Something about knowing you participated in a day that reached thousands of students across the globe really brings on those warm and fuzzy feelings. 

I have since transitioned to work for the USGBC National Capital Region and am on the other side of the table this year, ensuring NCR is represented on the map with service projects of our own. I feel a sense of ownership and pride knowing our amazing volunteers are working tirelessly to create several impactful Green Apple Day of Service projects. I am also mentoring a local Girl Scout who is executing a Green Apple Day of Service project in her community, through the Bringing Up Girls program. It is so inspiring to see the hope in her eyes and see her eagerness to make a difference formulate in a tangible service project.

Green Apple Day of Service has meant many things to me through my various forms of involvement, and each of them have made me feel closer to my community. There is a real sense of pride in knowing you are part of a larger movement all coming together on one day to really impact our future—our students. 

Next, Whitney Terrill, Credentialing Specialist with our LEED team, offered up her thoughts on the Green Apple Day of Service:

Green Apple Day of Service is such a great opportunity to give to our schools—some of the most inspirational and transformative institutions in our societies. As a USGBC staff person, this annual day of service truly brings me so much fulfillment and joy. I find it so grounded in USGBC’s mission—the part that is really about transforming generations of people.

Roger Platt, President of USGBC, also shared his feelings on the Green Apple Day of Service:

For me, Green Apple Day of Service has been personal. Whether I was dumpster diving at the middle school near my own home in Washington to help with the auditing of the recycling program, planting trees at a school on Capitol Hill or meeting new friends of the earth from as close as DC and as far away as West Africa, I felt rooted to my home. And that is what Green Schools are all about: a place near home that makes room for learning and also for God’s gift of nature in all its fragile beauty.  

Finally, I’ll add my own thoughts on the Day of Service. I started working for USGBC just about one year ago, a few days prior to the 2014 Green Apple Day of Service. I participated in the flagship event at Tubman Elementary School, painting walls and relocating plants. For me, it was eye-opening to see so many of my new colleagues coming together on a weekend to really practice what they preach. While literally getting their hands dirty for the cause, there was a sense of energy and joy that was palpable. Even though I was brand-new, I felt part of a community of caring individuals.

At its heart, I think that is what the Green Apple Day of Service is all about: cultivating community and a sense of shared responsibility, accomplishment, investment and improvement. It’s been a year and I feel truly privileged to continue to be a part of this movement, to make thousands of schools better, brighter, healthier and happier places to live, learn, work and play. Because of my hands-on experience with the Green Apple Day of Service, I have seen for myself and truly believe that where we learn matters.

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