How Schools are Reducing their Environmental Impact, Improving Health, and Cultivating Stewardship Values- 2019 Green Ribbon Schools Announced

Today the U.S. Department of Education named the 2019 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees. Across the country there are 35 schools including 25 public schools, 3 magnet schools, 2 charter schools, 10 nonpublic schools, and four postsecondary institutions that are recognized. Thirty-six percent of the 2019 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body. These honorees employ innovative practices and policies to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education.

Could your school be the next U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School? Here are a few ideas from the 2019 honorees:

Schlitz Audubon Nature Preschool- Milwaukee, Wisconsin

a preschool student fills muffin tins with mud

  • The Nature Preschool at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center is housed in a LEED Gold certified facility that uses geothermal, solar electric, and solar thermal energy sources to generate 50 percent of total energy use on-site and sell renewable energy back to the local utility.
  • The preschool uses recycled and environmentally sustainable products such as three-bin compost system, dishwasher, and sanitizer.
  • A rain catchment system was installed alongside one of the play areas to catch and hold 90 percent of the water from the nature center rain gutters. When the catchment is opened, water runs along a funnel system, through the play space, and out into an educational rain garden blending water conservation, early childhood play, and education.
  • The preschool offers programs incorporating environmental concepts into everything the students do. Students have the opportunity to touch, smell, listen, and experience nature and use tools to interact with nature.
  • Students spend between 50 and 100 percent of their time outdoors on a daily, year-round basis.

Boston Green Academy- Brighton, Massachusetts

a group of students walk along a muddy beach at sunset

  • Boston Green Academy obtains 48 percent of its energy from renewable sources and recently repaired and replaced 203 steam traps, yielding a 25-30 percent energy savings.
  • Students in the Career Technical Education program conduct cost-benefit analysis to explore retrofitting current school lighting with LED bulbs and learn to use thermal imaging cameras in order to assess building envelope and window efficiency.
  • The lawn has been converted into an outdoor classroom and garden that was designed, built, and maintained by students. The school composts lunchroom, garden, and yard waste.
  • Each year, all grade levels complete a term-long interdisciplinary project focused on sustainability called Green Exhibitions during which students grapple with important environmental, social, and economic issues. Juniors and seniors complete a job shadow in a sustainability field and seniors complete a sustainability internship. All high school students create an online Green Portfolio, which they present and defend in front of a panel of judges and the community. Urban ecology is a required class for all 6th-8th grade students; environmental science for ninth grade students; and green physics for 12th Elective classes offered include green engineering and AP environmental science.
  • During annual Project Week, students spend an entire week off campus — hiking, biking, cooking, meditating, teaching, dancing, sailing, painting, protecting, and exploring.

Lake Washington School District- Redmond, Washington

High school students build a new structure in a garden

  • By 2020, 27 percent of district schools’ heating will come from high-efficiency geothermal. LWSD has the largest solar energy capacity of any district in the state at 615 kilowatts. Waste-reduction and recycling efforts have reduced costs by $120,000 per year since 2008.
  • All schools recycle and about 75 percent of schools collect organic food waste for composting at a regional facility.
  • Students have unlimited access to fresh fruits and vegetables in lunch garden bars.
  • Prior to graduation, the typical capstone course for students is physics in the universe, which includes a full unit with standards addressing climate change. LWSD career and technical education courses include environmental science, sustainable design, and urban gardening.
  • The Lake Washington Parent Teacher School Association (PTSA) Council established a district PTSA Sustainability Committee. The PTSA Sustainability Committee collaborates with the District Green Team, which includes district staff from Support Services and administrators representing instructional programs.

To learn more about U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools or for resources to make your own school more sustainable, visit ED’s Green Strides website.