Schools Go Green – and Save Green – with Help from Private, Foundation and Nonprofit Sectors

Since Secretary Arne Duncan announced the Green Ribbon Schools effort this past September, program staff have learned about a wide range of free resources available to help schools go green and to save green, too. Green schools are taking advantage of grants, volunteer support, education resources and other help — from innovative business partnerships to overnight field trips at nearby outdoor education centers. Here are just a few examples:

Green schools have tapped into Kohl’s department stores volunteers and funds to implement environmental projects in schools. They send their difficult to recycle items to Terracycle and get a check in return. Schools are connecting kids to the outdoors with National Wildlife Federation’s Get Outside activity ideas. Schools are teaching sciences and developing civic engagement skills as they plan and maintain school gardens with tools from School Garden Wizard and the Green Thumb Challenge.

They are turning to Walking School Bus to reduce transportation use and build regular activity into kids’ days. They are encouraging healthier school eating and hosting educational fundraisers with help from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation PreventObesity, Healthy Schools Campaign, School Food and Fitness and National Healthy Schools Day.

Green schools are implementing effective environmental education with free teaching materials from Green Education Foundation, Facing the Future, Project Learning Tree, and National Resources Defense Council, among others.  They are calling upon Alliance for Climate Education and Do Something for free projects, grants and assemblies to provide hands-on interdisciplinary learning about the key relationships between dynamic environmental, energy and human systems.

They are exercising students’ math, engineering, art, architecture and design skills as well as stretching their ability to think creatively and work with others through school design projects such as Council on Educational Facility Planners International School of the Future Design Competition and Green Education Foundation Green Building Program that emphasize sustainability, health and improved achievement outcomes.

See more free resources to help stretch green school budgets.

Click here to see Green Ribbon’s previous blog posts.

US Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools is an awards program that recognizes school achievements in environmental impact, health and wellness, and environmental education. The effort should not be confused with any program conducted by non-governmental entities.


  1. @Sonjia- Why shouldn’t they have environmental projects?

    What if it leads one of those children to opportunity, and eventually leads to curing cancer? Lives could be saved because of a fourth grader’s tomato plant. Should it matter when they do these things? As long as they meet school requirments, and get a little extra, environmental projects should be a benefit.

  2. National Healthy Schools Day 2012- join us for the tenth annual on Tuesday April 24 nd all week long! Help us make it the biggest and the best. The day celebrates and encourages healthy indoor environments in schools nationwide.

    For simple low cost activities for districts, facility directors, classroom teachers, and parents, and events from last year, visit Alas, we do not offer grants but we do help you find and carry out easy practical steps!

  3. Centerburg School District has entered into a 25-year agreement with Solar Planet, LLC to bring lower energy costs to the district. This agreement will place enough solar panels on school property to produce eighty percent of the school’s electrical needs. These panels will be placed both on the ground and on the roof of the MS/HS and the elementary buildings. This solar array will be built and maintained at no cost to the district. The electricity produced by the array will be sold to the district at a much lower rate than what can be bought commercially. The savings will be both in the rate we pay for the power and the savings in transmission costs. The expected savings is estimated to be no less than $40,000 per year and our hope is it will higher. Since this is a new concept it is hard to predict the savings. The array will be owned and maintained by Solar Planet for the length of the contract. The goal of the Solar Planet investors is to take advantage of the accelerated depreciation and renewable energy credits. These tax incentives all take place in the first ten years of the contract. The reason this is important is that the school can buy the array at years 10, 15, 20 or 25. Because the advantage to the investors is in the tax incentives the buyout after 10 years becomes very attractive and much less than the initial cost of the array. Who knows what the economy will be 15 years from now, but it will be a very real possibility that the school can buy the array and begin producing most of our own power. Presently there is no data as to how long a solar panel will last. Panels produced 15 years ago are still working fine. There is a small amount of decrease in efficiency over the years but this has proven to be negligible over the long run. Today’s panels are much more efficient and higher quality. The assumption is there is a life span on solar panels but that life appears to be decades.
    It is a new idea. At today’s rates, this agreement will save the district over 1 million dollars over the life of the contract. The expectation is that the savings will be much higher due to efficiency and also the fact that electrical costs are rising and expected to continue to rise much faster than the rate of inflation. If this increase continues the savings will be much higher.
    Another part of the array is the educational aspect. Solar Planet has agreed to equip a solar lab to allow students and teachers to see how the array is functioning at any point in time. This lab will allow classes to research solar energy as a science lesson or in a business class. Our hope is it will help students dream and inspire them to find other alternative methods to our current processes.
    This type of technology has become a very practical alternative to other energy methods. It is not the panacea of energy savings but as we continue to move forward we need to be thinking of integrating and using technology to help us make our world a better place.

    • We were joking discussing the same idea but thought the cost would be to high for the district or school. Did you approach solar planet? We are a suburb of Louisville, KY. Do you have any information about companies here that would be willing to try it with us?

  4. I would prefer to see schools actually teach American History, Math, Science and Reading NOT promote an agenda. Teaching chiildren during science that we should be good stewards of the land is fine. However, it is not appropriate it indoctrinate children in what appears to be a “global warming” or “climate change” agenda.

    • I disagree completely!!Science, nature stewardship and preservation of Earth/life all go hand in hand. They can not be seperated.
      Bravo that environmentalism is now called going green. THE LESSONS ARE RIGHT ON!! Does it matter if the lesson is called global stewardship, climate recognotion,huma impact on Earth? The point is completion of the learnin curve cycle!!

    • What agenda do you think they’re pushing when they teach American History on Apple Computers that have been donated? Or Math on Smart boards by Smart Tech? A lab donated by Solar Planet is a statement about insufficient education funding. Earth science is a subject, without an agenda, just like American History (although, the agenda there is another topic altogether) and Math. It’s science. Science, hopefully, without politics and without religion, that will give the Centerburg SD children a leg up in a technological industry of which Americans should become the world leaders.

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