A public charter school in Chicago has launched an ambitious campaign to build a net positive energy campus, which will open in 2015.
“One molecule more” has become the Academy for Global Citizenship’s philosophical slogan, guiding planning and development for a facility that will eventually generate its own energy, and grow enough produce to feed its students and members of the community. The developers envision the campus as a “third teacher”, offering practical education through its gardens, greenhouses and innovative designs.
The school secured more than $50,000 through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo – which will be matched from the school’s board of directors towards the purchase of the land.
It is still a long way from the total $30 million required to complete the vision. In addition to stimulating small-scale financial commitments from parents and community members, the school is also approaching founding donors, and hopes to partner with enterprises that would pay to use the school as a “learning lab” for sustainable technologies.
According to Dan Schnitzer, Head of Sustainability and Operations at the school, the long-term vision is to become financially independent of donor funds, offsetting operating costs by generating resources, namely energy and food.
“The campus will eventually pay for itself”, Schnitzer says.
The net positive framework has been gaining traction across multiple sectors, says Bruce McKenney, Strategy Director for the Nature Conservancy’s ‘Development by Design’ programme. He says there is a growing interest in net positive impact, born of a burgeoning “sense that it is possible to maintain systems for wildlife and people, while meeting development needs”.
Among the companies pledging to go beyond zero, the home improvement retailer Kingfisher recently convened a ‘youth board’ to suggest ways for a retail group with over 1,000 stores to help people improve their homes to the benefit of natural resources and communities, and make a profit [see 'How a youth board changed a business'].
Schnitzer and his colleagues also take a long view on positive impact. Not only is the school investing in the local environment and sustainable infrastructure, but also in a new generation of social and political stewards, “aware of the tremendous opportunities they have as individuals to make a positive impact”. – Katherine Rowland
Photo: The Third Teacher+ / Cannon Design