Final Plans Announced For Green Ribbon Schools

This week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made public the final plans for a new award program that will encourage our nation’s schools and communities to promote healthy and sustainable environments and educate students to become environmentally literate citizens. In this video, Arne talks about the new Green Ribbon Schools competition and urges states to “get started right now in identifying their best candidates” for the award.

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

For several months, the U.S. Department of Education has been developing criteria and selection guidelines for the pilot year of Green Ribbon Schools. During this process, ED heard how facilities upgrades can reduce schools’ environmental impact and costs, improve their and staff productivity, and create jobs. ED listened to arguments about the need for well-rounded, environmental education with strong science and mathematics foundations—efforts that develop students’ robust civics skills and environmental stewardship and enhance students’ career and college preparedness. ED learned that, across the country, achievements vary greatly in the areas to be honored by the Green Ribbon Schools award, and states will require some flexibility as to how they conduct their green schools selection processes.

ED took this input into account in designing the pilot year of the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award. As a result of this broad input, the new program will take advantage of the experience of efforts already underway in communities across the country and rely on a host of existing resources, standards and programs to encourage schools to:

  1. implement energy conservation measures that pave the way for reduced environmental impact, cost savings and job creation;
  2. undertake environmental and behavioral changes in schools that ensure the health, wellness and productivity of students, teachers, and staff; and
  3. promote environmental education that supports students’ strong civic skills, environmental stewardship and workforce preparedness.

The documents made public today reflect months of consultation with a variety of stakeholders and incorporate suggestions received during a public comment period:

The Green Ribbon Schools Criteria explain the program’s purpose, vision, eligibility, requirements and the Department’s authority for creating such an award.

The Instructions for Use of Framework explain use of the following technical assistance document.

The Framework for State Nominating Authorities is a spreadsheet that provides recommended measures by which to evaluate schools and select nominees to ED. It is intended for state nominating authorities’ use and adaptation.

The List of Statutory and Regulatory Requirements summarizes the Federal, state and local requirements with which schools must comply in order to be eligible for the Green Ribbon Schools award. Because the full list of applicable requirements varies by state and locality, each nominating authority will be responsible for determining the compliance of nominated schools with pertinent statutory and regulatory requirements, in consultation with state and local health, environment and safety authorities.

The Nominee Presentation Form is pending approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). While the Department final approval is pending, this version is offered in the interim to provide information for state authorities and communities to help them in their preparations to apply for the Green Ribbon Schools award.

This document contains a tentative pilot year application timeline. After the Nominee Presentation Form receives OMB approval, submission deadlines for the pilot year will be announced.

ED encourages chief officers and their designees to use the following dates to guide their state nomination process:

By November 22nd: Notify ED of participation
By March 22nd: Submit nominees to ED

‎Chiefs offices can contact Andrea Falken ( or 202.205.0708) at the U.S. Department of Education to notify of their participation and ask questions.

As Arne says in his video message, “we are confident that we will have an excellent slate of winners in our first year—great schools that can be examples of the best and most innovative ways to reduce environmental impact, create healthy learning spaces, and teach environmental literacy.” We wish school communities the best in their inaugural Green Ribbon School year efforts!

See our Fact Sheet for a brief overview of the pilot Green Ribbon Schools initiative.

Click here to sign up for email updates on Green Ribbon Schools.


  1. Wireless radiation, now designated a possible carcinogen, with many studies now showing biological effects of varying sorts, is going to have to be on the removal list before schools are worthy of green awards. That means no cell phones and no wi-fi on grounds.

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