First envisioned on World Environment Day, June 5, 2006, the Green Schools Alliance was created in response to New York City's challenge to municipal agencies to reduce their carbon footprint 30% by 2030. On October 11, 2007, forty-six schools gathered to explore climate change and what schools can do about it. The event was hosted by the Allen-Stevenson School. 

The Green Schools Climate Leadership Commitment was first introduced in an effort to address 21st century environmental challenges through integrated sustainable and energy-smart solutions.  With support from NYC's Mayor's Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, National Association of Independent Schools, National Business Officers Association, Association for Learning Environments (formerly CEFPI), National Schools Board Association, National Parent Teacher Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, New York State Energy Research Development Authority, individual founding member schools, and public and private partners, the GSA was officially launched at the end of 2007.

The Green Schools Climate Leadership Committment morphed into a Call to Action in 2016 to account for the large number of public schools districts signing on to the Alliance to use tools and resources as a method to improve sustainability in their schools. The Call to Action contains the same concepts as the original committment but allows for beginner-level schools to also participate and benefit from Alliance programs. 

In 2017, the Alliance restructured its membership to allow for more schools and individual members to participate. By switching from institutional to individual membership, the new structure allowed for the grassroots sustainability champion to be supported and the leaders to be highlighted. 

Green Schools Alliance is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, originally launched as a program of GEO:Global Environmental Options. GEO was founded by Margaret Watson in 1994 as an outgrowth of the “Greening of the White House” initiative.


Green Cup Challenge campus-wide inter-dorm energy conservation competition begins at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.

UN Foundation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) introduces the first road map for climate change action. The Green Cup Challenge™ is expanded to an interschool competition among Phillips Exeter Academy, The Lawrenceville School and Northfield Mount Hermon School.

Dr. Story Musgrave, astronaut and thought-leader, “launches” an energy challenge in the Allen-Stevenson School.

On UN World Environment Day, the Green Schools Alliance idea is formed in reaction to the UN Foundation IPCC Report and the NYC release of its master sustainability plan, PlaNYC.

GSA Climate Commitment goals are established in response to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s challenge to NYC institutions to reduce their carbon footprint 30% by 2030.

The GSA Climate Commitment becomes the basis of Alliance membership.

On October 11, the GSA grassroots framework is introduced, with the Climate Commitment as the basis for membership, at the Allen-Stevenson School, the first school-hosted leadership summit where 46 independent schools gather to explore "Climate Change: What Schools Can Do About It".

The Green Cup Challenge, with 40 independent boarding schools participating, is formally handed over to the GSA by Philips Exeter Academy, Northfield Mount Hermon School, and Lawrenceville school.

The Alliance is introduced to a U.S. nationwide audience by former President Bill Clinton at the US Green Building Council's Greenbuild Conference.

The first Alliance regional training event is hosted by the Town School.

Author Thomas Friedman introduces the Alliance at the Council on Foreign Relations in his keynote becoming the Alliance’s first leadership event. He is joined by Rob Watson, Founder of LEED, and Dr. John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The Anglo-American School in Moscow becomes the first Alliance international member school.

The Alliance reaches its first membership milestone of 100 founding member schools in 4 states and 3 countries.

The NYC Department of Education, the largest public school district in the USA, represented by Superintendent Joel Klein, signs the GSA Climate Commitment becoming the first school district to join the Alliance.  

The first Student Climate & Conservation Congress (Sc3) is launched, hosted by Alliance partner, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV.

Alliance membership reaches 1,888 schools in 16 U.S. states and 6 countries.

Chicago Public Schools joined the Alliance, represented by Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard.

The first regional competitions of the Green Cup Challenge™ are launched and schools compete regionally with their peer schools. Overall reductions are aggregated nationally and 130 schools participate.

The first Alliance conference & resource event to reach more than 1,000  participants is hosted by the NYC Department of Education’s Martin Luther King High School.

The first GSAx Event is hosted by a Alliance founding member Besant Hill School in Ojai, CA when their annual regional conference co-brands with the Alliance. It is followed by GSAx events in schools worldwide.

Alliance membership reaches 1,917 schools in 23 U.S. states and 7 countries.

NYC Department of Education runs the first district-wide Green Cup Challenge.

The Green Cup Recycle Challenge™ makes its debut. 

Castilleja School in Northern California hosts a GSAx Conference, coordinated by an Sc3 Student Fellow, launching the GSA Northern California Green Schools Network.

Alliance membership reaches 2,140 schools in 36 U.S. states and 9 countries.

With philanthropic support, the Alliance’s grassroots movement transitions to a formalized structure to increase its impact and support membership growth.

Alliance membership reaches 2,186 schools in 38 U.S. states and 18 countries.

The Green Cup Challenge™ reaches a milestone with cumulative savings reaching 10 million kWh and 15 million lbs. of CO2 in its 6-year history.

The first Alliance advocacy campaign to “Ban The Bag” is launched.

Alliance membership reaches 2,229 schools in 38 U.S. states and 30 countries.

The Alliance launches the Renewable Energy Consortium for Schools to aggregate the purchasing power of its schools. 28 schools participate in the inaugural year. The Consortium is co-chaired by Crossroads School, CA and Lycee Francais de New York.

NYC Department of Education beta tests using the profile pages as their mandatory tracking program for all 1,860 NYC public/charter schools.

A campaign to support Pollinator Habitat Restoration becomes an Alliance focus.

Alliance membership reaches 3,346 schools in 40 U.S. states and 45 countries.

White House Office of Science & Technology Policy under Dr. John Holdren highlights the Alliance as a program that address climate change education.

Educator Climate & Conservation Colloquium (Ec3), the Alliance’s first professional development program, makes its debut at the National Conservation Training Center.

The Alliance becomes the K-12 education consortium partner in the Singapore Green and Sustainable Cities Initiative, joining 14 community and industry leaders in engaging “in diverse activities to facilitate the growth of green and sustainable cities.”

The Alliance's first International Chapter is launched in Chile at the International Festival for Social Innovation.

Alliance membership more than doubles to reach 7,490 schools in 41 U.S. states and 53 countries.

The GSA District Collaborative, with representation from 21 U.S. school districts - eight of which are among the 12 largest districts in the country - is launched to harness the collective power of schools to support greener, more efficient solutions.

Maria’s Public School in Guwahati, Assam, India becomes the Alliance's first National Coordinator School and hold the first Sc3x event in India.

Alliance membership reaches 7,900 schools in 43 U.S. States and 57 countries. 

The Alliance debuts its new membership structure with three engagement levels; individual membership, collaboration groups, and leadership committments.