Celebrating the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and Sustainability Efforts at the Department

By: Andrea Suarez Falken, Special Advisor for Infrastructure and Sustainability, U.S. Department of Education

Before presenting this year’s awards, Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten addresses the 2023 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) at the ceremony on August 8th in Washington, D.C.

On August 8, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) recognized 26 schools, 11 school districts, and four postsecondary institutions, as well as one state education official at a Washington, D.C. ceremony for efforts to cultivate sustainable, healthy facilities, wellness practices, and hands-on, outdoor, environmental learning. The event was sponsored by the Spencer Foundation.

Honorees were invited to send up to four representatives to accept their plaque and banner while being photographed, and to celebrate at an afternoon reception on Capitol Hill hosted by the Center for Green Schools. The ceremony plenaries (morning and afternoon) were livestreamed so that other representatives and partners could join remotely. Senior administration officials from the White House, U.S. Department of Energy, ED, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spoke and participants attended discussion sessions on topics ranging from green schoolyards to climate-ready schools, and from environmental education to healthy school environments.

In addition to the main ceremony and reception, honoree representatives participated in numerous engaging and educational events throughout the week offered by various federal agencies to connect them with federal resources for schools and make them feel celebrated.

This annual ceremony was a celebratory reminder of the many new initiatives afoot at ED, as a result of decades of nationwide advocacy and the growing green schools movement.

For example, ED has two new programs related to school infrastructure that will address sustainable school practices. These are: 1) the Supporting America’s School Infrastructure (SASI) grant that will bolster several of the lowest capacity states in school facilities to, in turn, support their highest-need school districts open until Aug. 18; and 2) the National Center on School Infrastructure, a technical assistance center that will support high-need districts across the nation. In both programs, healthy, safe, sustainable, 21st century school facilities and grounds that support high quality learning are guiding tenants, which closed on Aug. 7.

In addition, ED has engaged non- and for-private sector stakeholders by leading an infrastructure and sustainability challenge. This challenge encouraged partners to make commitments to supporting healthy, sustainable, equitable school infrastructure, environmental education, and bold environmental justice and climate goals in schools. Learn more about some of these commitments here.

For the eighth year since 2013, the Department will host the Green Strides Tour – later this year, under the theme “Schools for Climate Solutions.” The Green Strides Tour provides an opportunity for ED to bring additional attention to honorees’ achievements in whole school sustainability to inspire other schools. It will take place from September 19-21 in Northern and Central California.

To learn more about this year’s U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees, visit the website and annual Highlights Report. You may also subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

We look forward to recognizing more schools and districts for their sustainability efforts in the years to come. Remember: We can only highlight the green schools examples nominated to ED for the ED-GRS award for their work to 1) reduce environmental impact and costs; 2) improve health and wellness; and 3) teach effective environmental and sustainability education. Be sure to reach out to your state education authorities if you are doing work in all three award “Pillars” for nomination to ED in 2023-2024!

Browning Elementary School
Francis L. Cardozo Education Campus
Park Forest Elementary Creative Sciences & Arts Magnet School