Welcoming Baby Green Ribbon… Sustainably

Over the past five years, I have had the task of breathing life into our U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS), growing the award to recognize not just schools, but also districts, postsecondary institutions, and state education agency officials, and to encompass social media, newsletter, resource and webinar portal, and annual tour, in addition to recognition award. At the same time, participating stakeholders, feds, states, districts, and schools have taught me about sustainable schools — and sustainable living.

Íñigo Steven Falken joined the Green Ribbon family on July 29.

Íñigo Steven Falken joined the Green Ribbon family on July 29.

Welcoming the other “Baby Green Ribbon” turned out to be a lesson in letting go and in living in accordance with the Pillars of our award. It was only natural that I implement our Pillars as I prepared for his arrival. We skied, swam, practiced yoga, hit the gym, and hiked through the pregnancy (including the day he was born). I investigated early learning centers with a view toward daylighting, nutrition, outdoor time, and walk or bikeability to school. I bought baby clothing and gear pre-loved, and wore a recycled maternity dress to our ceremony. I strove to be more resource efficient, since any single mom can certainly stand to cost-save on utilities.

With the support of supervisors at ED, I found work-life balance running this outreach and engagement initiative on a flexible schedule from Colorado. Now in our fifth cycle of the award, I’ve learned that we can incentivize change, spotlight innovative practices, and connect individuals, but that all of this works best when I push a little less and flow a little more.

Andrea and Íñigo live out the Pillars of the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Award.

Andrea and Íñigo live out the Pillars of the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Award.

Despite all of these gains, I admit that when 41 weeks rolled around, I panicked. Baby Green Ribbon’s lesson was, once again, by straining more, he wouldn’t necessarily arrive faster. Indeed, as I had experienced with both “projects,” patience has an important place in our sustainability work – individually, in schools, and in government.

After 41 weeks and three days, on July 29th, I welcomed Baby Boy Green Ribbon, Íñigo Steven Falken, in water at Colorado’s oldest free-standing birth clinic, Mountain Midwifery Center. Weighing 7 pounds, 10 ounces, and measuring 20 inches, he was well worth the wait.

We are taking a break from the Green Strides Tour this year, but will be back to highlight innovative practices across the country next fall. The announcement of the 2016 cohort will once again take place on Earth Day and we will celebrate honorees at a fifth annual ceremony in July. Íñi can’t wait to meet his green schools family and to learn school and lifelong conservation, wellness, and environmental learning practices.

Andrea Suarez Falken is Director of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and ED’s Facilities, Health, and Environment Liaison. To learn more about U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, visit our website. You may also subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Duncan Praises Sustainable Schools and Announces New Green Strides Site

Part of preparing students for success in the twenty-first century is making sure they are good stewards of the environment. U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools began in order to recognize schools, districts, and institutions of higher education that reduce environmental impact and costs, improve health and wellness, and teach sustainability literacy. Today, the 2015 cohort of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) was recognized at a ceremony at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, DC, where honorees received sustainably crafted plaques and flags. Honorees then attended a celebration hosted by the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council and Senator Patty Murray’s Office, where they met their Congressional representatives, and some also participated in tours offered by the National Park Service and Department of Energy.

2015 Green Ribbon SchoolsJUST ANNOUNCED: The 2015 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools!

Posted by U.S. Department of Education on Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Secretary Duncan addressed attendees accompanied by Managing Director of the White House Council for Environmental Quality Christy Goldfuss and NOAA Director of Education Louisa Koch. He congratulated the honorees by highlighting their “common sense ways to invest more in education rather than utility bills, improve health and attendance and, and excite students about real-world learning.”

As part of the ceremony, Secretary Duncan announced the re-launch of Green Strides, a new user-friendly site that serves as a one-stop shop for the resources that all schools can use to save money, improve health, and engage their students with authentic sustainability learning. The new site is thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council. The Green Strides site features a calendar of webinars offered by a host of non-profit and federal collaborators explaining the use of these resources. The site showcases the cohorts of honorees – schools, districts, and the most recent postsecondary additions–in a searchable map to facilitate their promising practices’ replication nationwide.

To learn more about this year’s U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees, visit our website and annual Highlights Report. You may also subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. In the upcoming 2015-2016 awards cycle, state education authorities are once again invited to nominate green schools, districts, colleges, and universities by February 1st, 2016 and to encourage all schools to make use of these money-saving, health- and achievement-enhancing environmentally sustainable practices.

Andrea Suarez Falken is Director of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and ED’s Facilities, Health, and Environment Liaison.

Recognizing Green Schools and Districts – and Colleges! – This Earth Day

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) began in 2011-2012, recognizing 78 green schools. In 2012-2013, ED added a District Sustainability Award and honored 64 schools and 14 districts. The 2013-2014 cycle had 48 school honorees and 9 district honorees. 2015 is the inaugural year of the Postsecondary Sustainability Award.

To celebrate Earth Day, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the 2015 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS), District Sustainability Awardees, and the first-ever Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees. Joined by Managing Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Christy Goldfuss, Secretary Duncan celebrated the 58 schools, 14 districts, and nine postsecondary institutions chosen for their progress in reducing environmental impact and utility costs, promoting better health for students and staff, and offering effective environmental education, including civics, STEM and green career pathways.

Reiterating the Department’s support for sustainable schools, Secretary Duncan praised the honorees, “They demonstrate how sustainability concepts allow students to expand their traditional learning into the real world and to create change for the betterment of communities. This authentic learning engages students in all subjects, and bolsters their critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving capacities.”

The honorees were selected from a pool of candidates voluntarily nominated by thirty state education agencies across the country, with honorees selected from 28 of these jurisdictions. The schools serve diverse populations, with 52 public and six private schools, including 35 elementary, 19 middle, and 17 high schools, with several offering various K-12 variations. Forty-seven percent of this year’s honorees serve disadvantaged students, 22 percent are rural, and one-third of the postsecondary honorees are community colleges. Many also serve pre-K students, demonstrating that health, wellness, and environmental concepts can be taught to every student at every level. Honorees also show that their efforts not only improve health and learning, but also save schools money in utility costs which can be applied directly back to the classroom.

Read about this year’s honorees and their achievements in this year’s state-by-state .

There are many tools and resources available to all schools, prekindergarten to postsecondary, to help with sustainable facilities, wellness practices, and environmental learning. You can find free resources available through the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Strides portal. You can also stay up to date through the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools’ webpage, where you can connect with us through Facebook, Twitter, and the newsletter.

With the help of these tools, your school, district, or postsecondary institution may be eligible to apply in your state for one if its nominations to U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools in an upcoming year. Schools, districts and postsecondary institutions are encouraged to contact their state education authorities for more information on state applications. While a few state authorities don’t yet participate, hearing from interested schools may change that.

Andrea Suarez Falken is Director of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and ED’s Facilities, Health, and Environment Liaison.

Celebrating National Environmental Education Week

Yesterday we kicked off National Environmental Education Week. This year’s theme spotlights ways technology can enhance environmental learning.  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan offered his perspective in a new public service announcement to celebrate EE Week. “We know so many of the jobs of the future are in the STEM fields,” Duncan said. “There are so many great ties between STEM education and environmental education. If we really want to keep those good jobs in this country, if we want our students prepared – I think there’s no better way to start to get at that, whether it’s in 2nd grade or in 11th or 12th grade, than to get kids out in the outdoors with environmental education.”

This also includes preparing for new ideas on how to get students outdoors and learning. To help accomplish this, Duncan will announce the second annual U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and first-ever District Sustainability Awardees on April 22nd at 10:30am EST (watch the event live). Honored schools and districts will have an important role to play modeling best practices for other schools that wish to provide an education geared toward the challenges and jobs of the future, which is why ED will release a report with case studies on each of the honorees.

Happy National Environmental Education Week and, get ready, the Ribbons are coming….!

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

Andrea Falken is director of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

Local School Communities Get Outdoors at Urban Waters Sites

The Urban Waters Federal Partnership, a 13 agency initiative, aims to stimulate local economies, create jobs, improve quality of life, and protect health by revitalizing urban waterways and the communities around them, focusing on under-served urban communities. At Partnership sites across the country, federal, state and local governments, non-profits and schools are working together to safeguard natural resources for generations to come and ensure that students receive effective environmental education.

Adminstrator Jackson with students at Scott School rain garden

Adminstrator Jackson with students at Scott School rain garden.

In the Los Angeles, Calif., Paddling and Safe Routes

The National Park Service, the LA Conservation Corps, and partners created the “Paddle the LA River” program. Over 1,000 people, including urban school children, have now kayaked or canoed the river. The National Park Service is also developing “Safe Routes to the River” that will connect Los Angeles Unified School District school sites to river gateways with enhanced trails.

In New Orleans, La., a New-Old Watershed Education Center

The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation has raised over $1 million in private funds to rebuild a lighthouse as an educational center for water quality and water resources.  The new-old Canal Lighthouse Education Center will serve adults and children and feature interactive displays on the history of the lighthouse and the canal, the ecology of Lake Pontchartrain, and the impacts of Hurricane Katrina.

On the Anacostia River, Washington, DC, Youth Paddling and Greener Schools

As part of the Youth Paddling Program sponsored by the National Park Service, 1,000 kids from DC area schools enjoyed learning about recreational opportunities and participating in watershed education while paddling the Anacostia. Meanwhile, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation implemented low environmental impact development practices at seven schools, reducing pollution to the river and educating students about the importance of managing storm water. As part of the project, DC Greenworks, a local non-profit, engaged 150 volunteers to design and install green roofs, rain gardens, rain barrels, permeable pavement, bio-retention plantings and other storm water management technologies at schools. The lessons developed during the collaborative design process will be introduced into the schools’ curricula with the help of local non-profits.

In Denver, Colo., Youth River Rangers and a Children’s Forrest Corridor

Youth River Rangers, a green jobs pilot, gives urban youth the opportunity to sample, analyze, and map water quality, complete green jobs internships, and apply for environmental education certification.  The Greenway Foundation of Denver will oversee the scaling up of this youth training program.  In addition, with funding from the U.S. Forest Service and the EPA, Johnson-Habitat Park will soon house a children’s forest corridor for kids to explore along the South Platte River and a virtual online “base camp” to help connect youth to these outdoor recreation opportunities.

In Baltimore, Md., Career Exploration and on-the-Job Training

The U.S. Forest Service helped Maryland fund green jobs for watershed restoration, including urban youth positions with paid arboriculture training and work experience which allowed them to improve the heavily urbanized Gwynns Falls Trail.

In Portland Ore., Local School Develops a Rain Garden 

Adminstrator Jackson at Scott School

Adminstrator Jackson at Scott School

The Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership worked with the Harvey Scott School to design and build a rain garden on a school site that had been a safety hazard.  The project involved classroom visits, field trips to other sustainable stormwater sites and a community design charrette.  In addition, partners provided classroom environmental education lessons on soils, watershed, and native plants.  Students cleared the project site of weeds, dug the infiltration swale, and planted the swale and an outdoor classroom with 1,210 plants.

Across the nation, Urban Waters partners are connecting environmental practitioners to schools who help students — especially the neediest – connect to and learn about their urban waters and spark their interest in environmental careers.  These partnerships are ramping up green infrastructure efforts, engaging children in hands-on projects and the science, math, engineering and technology behind them, and providing jobs and skills to teenagers in the promising green sector.  Together, partners are revitalizing local economies, preserving precious local resources and protecting the health of the neediest.

Now that’s the kind of community partnership green schools are made of!

Read about the Urban Waters Federal Partnership.  Find resources, including partners and grants, and informational webinars to make your school community safer, healthier and more sustainable.

Colleges and Universities Lead the Way in Sustainability

A USGBC Students group at the University of California-San Diego helps to divert waste from the landfill during freshman move-in for their ‘Don’t Be Trashy’ event.

Over the past year, ED has highlighted the exemplary efforts of K-12 schools to reduce environmental impact and costs; improve health and wellness; and teach effective environmental and sustainability education. However, healthy, safe, cost-efficient facilities, practices and learning are not limited to primary and secondary educations. In many ways, colleges and universities, and their students, have been the vanguards of the sustainability movement. Here are some of the ways post-secondary institutions are making fantastic strides toward sustainability goals:

Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability offers trans-disciplinary sustainability degree programs in business, design, technology, engineering, law, humanities, social sciences, and public affairs, among other subjects.

At the University of California, Santa Barbara, students voted in 2006 to self-levy a tax of $2.60 per quarter, contributing approximately $182,000 a year toward The Green Initiative Fund.

At Portland State University in Ore., the Institute for Sustainable Solutions hosts an annual International EcoDistrict Summit. The Institute’s 2013 Solutions Generator offers awards for up to 16 groups of students to design innovative solutions to pressing sustainability issues.

The College of Lake County, in Grayslake, Ill., works to facilitate important sustainability conversations for the community through the annual County Green conference. In addition, the college offers faculty professional development courses in integrating sustainability into classes.

At Maine’s Unity College, students live in one of the first super-efficient, certified “passive house” student residence in the country, and built a campus root cellar and animal barn. Its Environmental Citizen Curriculum engages students of every major with sustainability science and environmental challenges.

At Furman University in Greenville, S.C., the Shi Center, a demonstration site for different sustainable technologies, has attracted over a dozen national and regional sponsors. With a $2.5 million Department of Energy grant, the school will replace all of its 11 aging heat pumps with ground source geothermal varieties by 2014.

At De Anza College in Cupertino, Calif., students can join one of many environmental committees and enroll in sustainability-focused classes. The college offers reduced rates on public transport and bike rentals.

In Muncie, Ind., Ball State University boasts the largest geothermal heating and cooling system of its kind in the nation. When completed, the system will allow the university to save $2 million per year in operating costs and cut its carbon footprint roughly in half.

At Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, Vt., 20 percent of food is raised and harvested by students in campus gardens, fields, farm, forests, and orchards. What products can’t be grown on campus comes from local, sustainable, organic farms. The Sterling Farm and Gardens serve as laboratories for best practices in sustainable agriculture.

These are only a few examples of two and four-year colleges and universities reducing environmental impact and costs; improving health and wellness; and graduating engaged environmental citizens. And students are taking notice: according to the Princeton Review, 68 percent of likely college applicants say a college or universities’ commitment to sustainability would affect their decision to attend.

View more resources and webinars for all schools here.  Connect with the ED-Green Ribbon Schools network on Facebook. Sign up for the ED-GRS newsletter.

School Lighting Upgrades Save Money, Allowing Schools to Make Health and Achievement Promoting Repairs

America’s schools spend more than $8 billion each year on energy – more than is spent on textbooks and computers combined.  About 26 percent of electricity consumed by a typical school is for lighting alone. Often, even more is spent to compensate for the heat generated by outdated lighting fixtures.  These expenditures on utilities could be redirected toward ensuring the general good condition, health, safety, and educational adequacy of school buildings, particularly for those in greatest disrepair.  If your school hasn’t updated its lighting in the past five years, a lighting retrofit could present an opportunity to reduce the amount of energy you use for lighting by 30 to 50 percent and for cooling by 10 to 20 percent.

The health benefits of lighting upgrades are both indirect and direct: cost savings generated by energy efficiency upgrades can be used toward health and safety promoting building renovations and the upgrades themselves can have positive health impacts.  For example, upgrading to newer lighting fixtures can reduce the risk of exposure to harmful contaminants, such as Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), carcinogens that can lead to a variety of adverse health effects on the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems.  Trained personnel can carefully dispose of old PCB-containing lighting fixtures and replace them with new fixtures free of PCBs.

Attention to appropriate lighting levels and an increased use of natural daylight can also improve student performance. A 2003 study found that classrooms with the most daylighting had a 20 percent better learning rate in math, and a 26 percent improved rate in reading, compared to classrooms with little or no daylighting.  Improving daylighting doesn’t have to involve a renovation.  It can be as simple as moving stacked supplies away from windows to let the natural light shine in!

Des Moines Central Campus High School in Des Moines, Iowa, a 2012 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School, improved its energy efficiency through targeted lighting upgrades, completing extensive renovations that transformed the Central Campus building from a 1918 Ford car factory into a modern educational space with energy-efficient lighting.  Renovations to the school’s facilities took advantage of available natural light and reduced the need for artificial light.

Increasing the lighting voltage – or the energy required to move the electronic charge along the circuit – from 120V to 277V helped to improve the lighting circuit efficiency. Replacing all fluorescent T12 magnetic fixtures with more energy-efficient T8 fixtures improved the quality and efficiency of the lighting. Finally, sensors installed in the school eliminated energy waste in unoccupied areas.

As of 2012, these and other improvements have helped Des Moines Central Campus to reduce its energy use by 28 percent compared to a 2008 baseline. The school regularly tracks its energy performance using Portfolio Manager, EPA’s free ENERGY STAR measurement and tracking tool.  As a result of Des Moines Central Campus High School’s success in reducing environmental impact and costs, the school earned the ENERGY STAR from the EPA.  This work in Pillar I, coupled with its efforts to improve health and wellness and provide effective environmental and sustainability education made it a 2012 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School.

To learn more about how efficiency upgrades can save your school energy costs and allow it to address critical facilities health and safety, ensuring students have a fair shot at performing at their best, visit Energy Star for Schools and the ED-GRS resources page.  Hundreds of schools across the country are proving that you do not have to wait to improve the quality of your school facilities.  Lighting upgrades are but one way that energy efficiency upgrades and the cost savings they produce can support healthy, safe, and high achievement promoting school environments.

Andrea Falken is director of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

ED-Green Ribbon Schools Gets a Facelift for 2012-2013

Now that the 2012 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools are recognized, the Department has refined the selection guidance it provides to state nominating authorities to make for a smoother competition for states and schools in the second year.  The award was created to recognize high-achieving schools striving for 21st century excellence by:

1)     Reducing environmental impact and costs;

2)     Improving the health of schools and wellness of students and staff; and

3)     Providing effective environmental and sustainability literacy, incorporating STEM, civic skills and green career pathways.

For ED-GRS 2012-2013, ED implemented suggestions from stakeholders and partners to improve the site and nomination infrastructure, especially the following:

    • 2012-2013 Criteria explain the program’s purpose, vision, eligibility, requirements and the Department’s authority for creating such an award.
    • Each state or nominating authority is assigned a maximum number of possible nominees.
    • An updated Resources page serves as a clearinghouse for hundreds of programs, grants and tools in all areas of the award.
    • A Framework provides recommended measures by which to evaluate schools and select nominees to ED for eligible nominating authorities.
    • The Sample Application is offered as another optional tool for nominating authorities to assist them in selecting schools.

ED encourages state education agencies to use the following dates to guide their nominee selection:

September:  States begin selection processes.

February 15: States submit nominees to ED.

April 22:  ED announces honorees.

June 3: ED honors selectees at a ceremony in Washington, DC.

Already, over 30 states have indicated their intent to nominate schools for the 2012-2013 year.

While the award is designed to highlight and communicate the innovative practices by just a few exemplary schools, all schools may sign up for the Green Strides Webinar Series to connect with resources and programs available to them. The series aims to provide all schools the tools they need to reduce their costs and environmental impact; improve health and wellness; and provide effective environmental and sustainability education.  To learn more about the 2012 ED-GRS cohort’s exemplary practices, read Highlights from the 2012 Honorees and a Snapshot of the 2012 Cohort.

Connect with ED-GRS on Facebook.  Sign up for ED-Green Ribbon Schools updates here.

ED-Green Ribbon Schools Prove that Every Month is Right for Getting Outdoors

Young boy holds a worm

A young boy examines an earthworm. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

President Obama designated June Great Outdoors Month to encourage Americans to take advantage of our rich, natural and cultural outdoor resources while being active outdoors.  Fortunately, the first group of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools provides us many examples of innovative approaches to getting students active and learning outdoors year-round.

For example, at Evergreen Charter School in Asheville, N.C., the adventure physical education program includes rock climbing, white water rafting, camping and backpacking. At Thomas J. Waters Elementary in Chicago, students go on lengthy walks, dig potatoes, gather seeds and leaves, go fishing in Lake Michigan, and participate in organized runs. At North Shore Community School in Duluth, Minn., and Fishburn Elementary in Roanoke, Va., students tap maple trees every winter to enjoy with their breakfast.

The list goes on including schools that boast organic gardens, birdhouses built by students, an urban peach orchard, ponds, and even a native medicine wheel garden in Wahpeton, N.D.

Other ED Green Ribbon schools are encouraging students to get outdoors in their daily commute.  At Grand View Elementary in Manhattan Beach, Calif., students are rewarded with hand stamps on Walk to School Wednesdays. Likewise, Bernard High School in Bernardsville, N.J. obtained a $300,000 Safe Routes to School Grant to build a sidewalk, helping more students in the community to commute safely on foot.  Environmental Charter High School students in Lawndale, Calif., operate a bike repair shop encouraging more students and staff to cycle rather than drive.

These schools are taking advantage of a wealth of free teaching materials to assist them in outdoor curriculum development, including resources like:

And while schools may place an emphasis on outdoor, hands-on learning, parents can also teach these skills in their own garden or with a backyard campout.

Though June is National Outdoors Month, every month is a good time to teach students with hands-on and physical activities outdoors!  Using the outdoors helps keep a child’s mind and body actively engaged in critical academic subjects. If we want to ensure that students are healthy, high performing and prepared for the challenges of the next century, they’ll need to stay fit and connected to the land.

Stay tuned to ED-GRS’ biweekly blogspot for more examples of how schools can use environment to teach green technologies, STEM and civic skills, as well as reduce school costs and improve student health.  For now, ED’s facilities, health and environment ‘Green Team’ wishes all students and teachers a wonderful summer of outdoor exploring!

First U.S Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Recognized

ED staff prepare green ribbon sign

Staff from the Department of Education prepare a Green Ribbon sign before today's event.

Today marked another historic milestone for the green schools movement, as the 78 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools announced during Earth Week were recognized at a national ceremony in Washington, DC.  Secretary Arne Duncan joined EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley and U.S Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin in congratulating the honorees for their exemplary practices.

The winning schools, diverse in the student populations, and representing 29 states and the District of Columbia, all took a comprehensive approach to greening their schools, making strides to reduce their schools’ environmental impact, improve health and provide education geared toward the sustainability challenges of the 21st century.

Green Ribbon CeremonyDuncan congratulated the schools on their tremendous work, noting their practices to improve student achievement, increase student engagement and provide effective professional development are practices that all should follow, not just aspiring green schools.

While all the selected schools have outstanding stories, Secretary Duncan highlighted Arabia Mountain High School in Lithonia, Ga.,, which requires every student take AP Environmental Science, and is exceeding state and county assessment scores.  At Lothrop Technology Magnet School in Omaha, Neb., school gardens, and complementary practices such as composting, are a critical tool to getting even the youngest students learning and experiencing science first-hand.

ED released a document with highlights and success stories from the 2012 honorees. The Secretary also announced the first installment of the Green Strides Webinar Series, to help all schools move toward reduced environmental impact, improved health and effective sustainability literacy, the three ‘Pillars’ of the award.

Honorees were awarded Forest Stewardship Council and Green Guard certified plaques and biodegradable banners made of recycled bottles. This winter, all schools in participating states will have another opportunity to apply to their state education agencies in competition for state’s nominations for next year’s awards.  ED will publish 2013 criteria this summer for states to develop those competitions and will require state agencies to submit their nominees in early 2013.  Sixteen states have already indicated their intent to nominate schools in the next round of the recognition award competition.

Watch today’s U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award ceremony.

A Green Revolution for All

Two weeks from today, Secretary Duncan will take the stage at the Green Schools National Conference in Denver, providing a high note at what is fast becoming the largest annual meeting of the green schools movement. The Secretary and other distinguished speakers, including Deputy Undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Janey Thornton, mayors from several cities, and business leaders representing companies from Stonyfield Farm to Siemens, will address the green schools movement and how it can strengthen our economy, revitalize our schools and ensure access to green school benefits for all.

The Secretary’s appearance and the growing popularity of this conference signal a new milestone in green schools, coinciding with the inaugural year of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) program. ED’s new Environmental Justice Strategy explains how ED-GRS is just one initiative supporting a goal at the very heart of ED’s mission: assuring equal educational opportunity for every student. ED-GRS, among other initiatives, helps suggest ways to address the adverse health and environmental conditions that disproportionately affect student achievement among minority and low-income populations.

Over the past months, we’ve all seen how ED-GRS is encouraging state education agencies and school communities to consider the intersection of environment, health and education; putting a range of existing resources in one place for their use; and facilitating experts to help schools become healthier, safer and easier on the environment.

For this reason, ED-GRS plays an important part in ED’s Environmental Justice Strategy, responding to a Presidential Executive Order, which explains how the Department’s policies, programs, and activities aim to increase access for all to healthy, safe and high-achievement promoting environments. The strategy is available for public comment through March 26th and is one of several initiatives in which ED takes part, including America’s Great Outdoors and the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, to make good on the President Obama’s commitment to healthy environments and sustainable economies for all Americans.

The draft strategy makes it plain that the green schools movement, with its focus on environment, health, economy and education aims to do more than help our economy and nation grow sustainably.  Just as importantly, this veritable green schools revolution is helping to ensure fairness and opportunity for all of our nation’s students. 

Comment on ED’s draft Environmental Justice Strategy.

See all U.S. Department of Education environment blogs.

Connect with U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools on Facebook.

Please note:  U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools is a federal recognition award and should not be confused with any green schools program conducted by non-governmental entities.


U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools: For an Education Built to Last

Last week President Obama asked us to work together to create an America built to last — one that thrives on innovation, collaboration, affordable education and spending within our means.   As part of this effort, the U.S. Department of Education is working to encourage sustainable schools where facilities, health and education practices combine to support the nation’s needs in the long term.

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) recognizes public and private schools for meeting some of the most critical challenges of our time.  All schools are capable of reducing their energy consumption, and some are even candidates for renewable energy projects.  Every school can implement a coordinated school health program that addresses student health, fitness and nutrition to improve academic achievement.  And every school can offer students a well-rounded environmental education with strong science and mathematics foundations—an education that can help students learn robust civics skills and environmental stewardship as they enhance their career and college preparedness.

ED-GRS is just one effort by the Department of Education that addresses the environmental factors that can improve a child’s ability to learn.  To ensure the health and wellness of all students, ED collaborates with the First Lady’s Let’s Move!, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Surgeon General’s office to underscore the link between good health and positive academic outcomes.

ED has proposed a $265 million grant to expand support for the subjects important to a complete curriculum, including environmental literacy.  As the President said, in order to fill the innovation and research –based jobs our nation’s companies require, students must engage early and stay hooked on the critical science, technology, engineering, and mathematics subjects.  Environmental education engages students in these subjects, and a host of others.

To assist older students, ED administers vocational grants to help states develop green high school career programs that will prepare graduates for jobs in the green economy and funds energy and cost-saving improvements at minority-serving campuses.  Along with roughly a dozen other agencies, ED is developing a comprehensive Environmental Justice strategy and has joined the Federal Urban Waters Partnership to help connect all students to healthful environments and revitalize their communities.

These various programs all aim to help students achieve, go on to college, and graduate ready for the innovation and high-skill based job market.   Fostering a sustainable education means that our economy will possess the trained employees and creative thinking it requires to grow and flourish for years to come.  With these programs, we set a bar for graduates prepared to invent, renew, take responsibility and collaborate on behalf of our nation.  This new, sustainable generation will be up to the task, fortified by an education built to last.

Find grants and programs to green your school and learn about ED-GRS.

See all U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools blogs.

Connect with U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools on Facebook.

Please note:  U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools is a federal recognition award and should not be confused with any green schools program conducted by non-governmental entities.