Sustainability Certifications

Schools that are truly committed to a more sustainable future, aim to prove that by meeting criteria established by third-party certification programs. O’Dowd is a 2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School, and a Bay Area Green Certified Business – achieved in June 2016. We were most recently recognized with the 2016 Private School Green Achieve for the CA Green Ribbon Recognition.

CES-Rainbow-1-4_700CES Building and the Living Lab

The Center for Environmental Studies (CES) is O’Dowd’s 5,000-square-foot LEED-Platinum-Certified educational facility, dedicated to cultivating the next generation of environmental and sustainability leaders. The CES features two large indoor classrooms and a large covered outdoor classroom, which enable experiential learning and cutting-edge research. The stunning views of the Bay, large adjoining terrace, and connection to the Living Lab make the CES a great space for large group gatherings and retreats in a natural environment.

The Living Lab is a four-acre certified wildlife habitat and outdoor classroom committed to reconnecting students with the natural world and developing a kinship with Creation. Located on a hillside blessed with spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay, the Living Lab also borders forested public land and connects to the greenbelt of the nearby Arroyo Viejo Creek.

Begun as a jubilee year project, the on-campus ecological restoration was led by students, faculty, and parents. Volunteers designed and installed every part of the Living Lab, transforming this once neglected hillside into a vibrant outdoor classroom. The Living Lab holds a leading reputation among school gardens and urban restoration sites and is celebrated for its unique scope and size, impressive volunteer and student involvement, and ecological integrity.

For more on the CES and the Living Lab and their uses at O’Dowd in programs and curriculum»

View plant and animal species of the Living Lab »


Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The Earth’s temperature and climate depend on the balance between energy entering and leaving the planet’s system. O’Dowd is in the process of taking inventory, measuring, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions so that we can be part of the climate change solution.

Renewable Energy Sources

The backbone of O’Dowd’s Zero-Net Energy goal (by 2025) is made up of two major components: energy conservation and a shift to renewable energy sources. Retrofits have reduced energy demand, and S4S students work each year to help their peers and faculty/staff to reduce energy wasting behavior.

Water Conservation

At O’Dowd we are taking many steps to both conserve water, and protect water quality. Basic conservation efforts have been taking with more efficient indoor plumbing fixtures and fittings. Additionally, water efficient landscaping is modeled through native and drought tolerant landscaping at the Living Lab, and efforts have been made to mirror this across the campus.


50% of O’Dowd students take sustainable transportation methods to school.  A major step forward for the campus was the installation in January 2015 of two electric vehicle charging stations on campus for use by faculty/staff and students, and the subscription to a comprehensive carpool app for the O’Dowd Community.

Zero Waste

At O’Dowd we set the goal to become Zero-Waste by 2020 – meaning that at least 90% of waste is reduced, reused, recycled, or composted. Some strategies for achieving this are: creating a tri-bin infrastructure at all waste stations, reducing littering, diverting recyclables and organics from the landfill, reducing the amount of waste on campus, and tracking our progress.

Hazardous & E-waste

O’Dowd has established protocols to minimize toxins on campus and to safely dispose at Alameda County’s Household Hazardous Waste Program. O’Dowd hosts two e-waste drives a year, and partnering with local organizations that recycle or dispose of e-waste in an environmentally friendly way.


O’Dowd is actively moving towards a policy of sourcing materials sustainably, choosing products/services that encourage sustainable behaviors, and eliminating unnecessary purchasing.

Food & Dining

O’Dowd has taken major steps in creating a food and dining experience that improves school food, teaches nutrition, and supports sustainable food systems, beginning with a contract with Epicurean Group, certified Bay Area Green Business.  We even use fresh produce from the Living Lab.

Indoor Environmental Quality

O’Dowd is taking many steps to ensure 90% occupancy satisfaction, and we are using the CES classrooms as a model for demonstrating quality indoor environment practices such as: use of natural lighting, temperature and humidity control through radiant heating and natural ventilation, and air quality sensors.

Sustainable Cleaning Program

O’Dowd switched to a San Francisco-based custodial company called No More Dirt, that uses a high performance green cleaning program.

Grounds & Landscaping

O’Dowd aims to have grounds that are 100% sustainable (resources efficient), foster human interaction with nature, build community, and are aesthetically pleasing.

Construction & Renovation

The completion of the Center for Environmental Studies is an example of our commitment to construction and renovation projects that provide a safe and healthy indoor environment for inhabitants while simultaneously mitigating the building’s impact on the outdoor environment.