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

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U.S. Department of Education

Green Strides


Recognizing Green Schools, Districts, and Postsecondary Institutions this Earth Day

On Earth Day, April 22, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the 2015 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS), District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees.  Joined in a video by Managing Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Christy Goldfuss, Secretary Duncan celebrated the fifty-eight schools, 14 school districts, and 9 postsecondary institutions chosen for their commitment to reducing environmental impact, improving health, and offering effective environmental education. You can view the video of the Earth Day announcement here and read the blog by ED-Green Ribbon Schools Director Andrea Suarez Falken here.  View the full state-by-state list of 2015 honorees and read our annual Highlights from the Honorees Report.


Selecting Nominees for U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools 2016  

Most participating states post applications for schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions each summer with deadlines to submit to them each winter. State authorities’ school, district, and postsecondary nominations are due to ED by February 1, 2016.  In addition to a total of five school and district nominees, each state may nominate one postsecondary institution for leadership in all three Pillars.  State selection committees may include state education agencies, state higher education agencies, governors offices, and outside partners.  Interested schools, districts, colleges, universities should contact their state education authorities for information on how to apply in a given state.  State education authorities can contact U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools for more information. >>>>


Meet a Few of the 2015 Honorees

As the examples below indicate, U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees are demonstrating innovative practices for all to follow:


Lincoln High School, Lincoln, Ala.

Over the last two years, Lincoln High School in Talladega County has enhanced its environmental education program and sustainable building and operations practices. Barren grounds surrounding the school host thriving natural landscapes that are being developed and expanded through classroom projects and studies in not only the agriscience classes, but in all science classes. Healthier Choice School initiatives havecreated new physical fitness approaches. Inside the building, recycling and energy conservation is a norm. Environmental efforts are a supported healthy learning daily practice, not an occasional project. The rural school setting promotes healthy fresh air, clean water, and abundant family gardens. Students have created digital announcements that are displayed throughout the school on large monitors reminding peers and staff of the environmental impact of recycling and energy conservation measures. Students at Lincoln are preparing for the future with a curriculum heavy in real-life science, technology, and math applications through project-based learning. Students engage in problem-solving activities related to sustainable houses, bridges, and new businesses, greenhouse science, and the value of healthy lifestyles. Now, theentire school community is cognizant of conserving water and paper products and limiting excessive lighting. Thermostat settings in moderation are the norm. >>>>

Susan Dorsey

Susan Miller Dorsey Senior High, Los Angeles, Calif.

Dorsey High School takes an integrative, multidisciplinary approach to environmental education by leveraging local resources and developing innovative partnerships. The Greenhouse Internship program provides students the opportunity to work with biologists and restoration ecologists and to serve as researchers at the nearby Baldwin Hills scenic overlook. Dorsey’s Restoration Leadership Program, funded by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services habitat restoration grant, allows mentorship opportunities at Leo Politi Elementary School. The habitat serves as an outdoor classroom for science, art, language arts, leadership, and community engagement, using sustainability as a framework. Dorsey’s Eco-Club has implemented several recycling and campus litter abatement programs, and produced an anti-littering film. Dorsey’s school garden has a thriving native plant population, where students learn science in the native plant garden, culinary arts students harvest and use the organic fruit and vegetables, and vocational students work in the garden as part of their programs. Two new LEED Silver buildings opened on campus in 2013. The new buildings replaced more than 50,000 square feet of asphalt with cool roofs and high albedo permeable paving. The buildings include a demonstration solar array and manage stormwater via a rain capture cistern. >>>>


The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

George Washington University (GWU) recently earned a Gold rating from AASHE STARS. The university community includes over 170 faculty engaging in sustainability research, 38 undergraduate and graduate sustainability-related programs across various disciplines, and 345 courses related to sustainability. GW’s living labs include substantive work by students in collaboration with faculty and staff that involves active and experiential learning and contributes to positive sustainability outcomes on campus. Eco-Reps share their ideas with the administration and participate in the decision-making process on campus development issues, including sustainability. GWU’s Square 80 Plaza is a certified LEED Sustainable Site, one of only 34 such certified sites in the country. The campus includes one LEED Platinum building, eight LEED Gold buildings, and one LEED Silver, with a total of 18 LEED registered or certified constructions. The Grass to Gardens effort replaces patches of turf with native plant beds to reduce runoff, bolster biodiversity, attract native invertebrates, and improve soil health. The Edible Landscaping program uses edible plant material to create aesthetically pleasing, edible garden beds throughout campus. The Urban Food Task Force and the student-led Food Justice Alliance promote healthy, sustainable food at GWU and in D.C. >>>>


West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan School District 197, Minn.

District 197 is committed to operating all of its facilities efficiently.  LIVEGREEN is the district's sustainability program, which promotes energy saving and recycling initiatives.  Each school in the district has a LIVEGREEN team consisting of students and a teacher that help implement low- and no-cost strategies to reduce energy use, promote recycling and composting, and conserve resources.  Through sustainability efforts, the district has avoided more than $1,900,000 in utility costs since 2003.  The district reduced its bus fleet by nine buses, and participates in Safe Routes to School.  LIVEGREEN events across the district include the Keep America Beautiful Recycle Bowl, LIVEGREEN Week, Earth Day, and compost sales.  The district has installed water bottle filling stations in each building, minimizing use of disposable plastic bottles, with the first one paid for through LIVEGREEN activities.  All eight schools of District 197 have earned ENERGY STAR certifications.  District 197 has a policy to recommission each building every three years.  Thanks to a generous grant from C. H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc. and the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools initiative, all eight schools in District 197 operate salad bars that feature a variety of fruit, vegetable, whole grain, legume, and low-fat dairy options during breakfast and lunch.  All students in the district from kindergarten through grade six participate in three field experiences through a local partner, Dodge Nature Center, annually that are tied to the grade-level science curriculum and Minnesota State Science Standards. >>>>


Read more about the 2015 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees in our annual Highlights from the Honorees Report.  From Georgia to Colorado, Minnesota to California, New Jersey to Kentucky, Alabama to Wisconsin, they are sure to inspire you!




Endangered Species Day is May 15, 2015

Zoos, aquariums, botanic gardens, wildlife refuges, conservation groups, national parks, museums, and schools throughout the country will hold tours, open houses, special presentations, exhibits, milkweed plantings and butterfly garden installations, habitat clean-ups and other restoration events, children’s activities and more on May 15, that weekend, and throughout May. Participate in a local event or take action individually. >>>>


The Green Clean Schools Leadership Summit is July 30-31, 2015

This summer, Healthy Schools Campaign will host the first annual Green Clean Schools Leadership Summit in Seattle, WA.  Facility managers, school decision makers, green cleaning experts, and vendors from across the nation are invited to come together in the name of healthier schools.  The summit serves as an opportunity for leaders in the field to connect, share their knowledge and grow their programs. >>>>


Green Apple Day of Service is September 26, 2015

The Green Apple Day of Service (GADOS) gives parents, teachers, students, companies, and local organizations the opportunity to transform all schools into healthy, safe, and productive learning environments through local service projects.  Check out project ideas, pick up helpful event resources, read about last year's impact, find an event in your area and register your 2015 project.  Watch this video where Secretary Duncan gets painting at a local school on Green Apple Day of Service.  >>>>


Resources, Contests, and Grants


Calling Young Chefs: Entries for the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge are Due April 30th

First Lady Michelle Obama, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and WGBH Boston public radio invite you to enter the fourth-annual Healthy Lunchtime Challenge to promote cooking and healthy eating among young people across the nation. The challenge invites kids ages 8-12 to join a parent or guardian in creating an original recipe that is healthy, affordable, and delicious. One winner from each U.S. state, territory, and the District of Columbia will be selected and have the opportunity to attend a Kids’ “State Dinner” at the White House later this summer where a selection of the winning recipes will be served. Read the Let’s Move! blog for more information. Entries must be healthy, creative, affordable, delicious, and original, and need to be submitted by Thursday, April 30, 2015. >>>>


Apply for Project Learning Tree’s GreenWorks Grant by September 30th

Do you have an idea for an environmental improvement project but need funds to implement it?  Project Learning Tree is accepting applications for a school/community native plant garden, a forest improvement project, a streamside restoration plan, a recycling program, or energy conservation project targeting students. Grants are offered for service-learning projects that improve schools or restore natural habitats. This year, grants will be awarded up to a maximum of $1,000. >>>>


Free Milkweeds for Schools and Non-Profits

As your students have learned, monarchs and pollinators need help due to habitat loss.  If your school or non-profit organization is interested in this conservation measure and learning opportunity, Monarch Watch, a nonprofit educational outreach program based at the University of Kansas, with funding from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), can help you create a habitat for monarchs and pollinators. If your school or organization qualifies, Monarch Watch will provide a free flat of 32 milkweed plugs as well as guidance on how to create a new habitat or enhance an existing garden. >>>>

Let's get every kid in a park

Let’s Get Every Kid in a Park

Starting in September, every fourth-grader in the nation will receive an “Every Kid in a Park” pass that’s good for free admission to all of America’s federal lands and waters — for them and their families — for a full year.  Many children don’t visit these places because they can’t get there easily, so federal resources will be available to help schools and families arrange field trips and visits by providing key trip-planning tools, and helping to cover transportation costs for schools with the greatest financial need.  Learn more at this fact sheet. >>>>


Technical Assistance for Educational Facilities Available

The Education Facilities Clearinghouse (EFC) can provide technical assistance to public schools, school divisions, State Education Agencies, and public institutions of higher learning in the areas of school sustainability, school building environmental health, and school safety, among other topics.  Priority will be given to underserved schools and districts.  These services may be provided on-site, by telephone, or electronically. >>>>


ED’s Green Strides Webinar Series continues with the tools to reduce schools’ environmental impact and costs; improve health and wellness; and teach effective environmental literacy, including STEM, green careers, and civic engagement. Find sessions for educators, facilities managers, and advocates weekly.

Apr. 29, 2015, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.  Portfolio Manager 201 (EPA)

Apr. 29, 2015, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m.  Summer Meals:  Recruit Staff and Volunteers (USDA)

Apr. 30, 2015, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.  Ocean Acidification:  Breaking it Down (EarthEcho)

Apr. 30, 2015, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.  How to Apply for the ENERGY STAR (EPA)

Apr. 30, 2015, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m.  Safe Schools by Design (EFC)

May 7, 2015,   2:00 – 3:00 p.m.  The Federal Checklist in Portfolio Manager (EPA)

May 14, 2015, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.  IAQ and Health:  Managing Asthma (EPA)

May 19, 2015, 1:00 – 3:30 p.m.  Avoiding Stinging In School Environments (EPA)

May 21, 2015, 3:00 - 4:40 p.m.   Energy is Everywhere (DOE)


Connect with Green Strides on the Web

Green Strides: Environment, Health and Facilities at ED
ED-Green Ribbon Schools
Twitter: @EDGreenRibbon
Sign up for Green Strides newsletter updates here.


A very happy Earth Day from the ED Green Team to your Green Team!

Happy Earth Day!