The NEW Postsecondary Sustainability Award is Here!

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          U.S. Department of Education

   Green Strides

The NEW Postsecondary Sustainability Award is Here


U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) has introduced a new Postsecondary Sustainability Award for the 2014-2015 cycle.  In addition to a total of five school and district nominees, each state may nominate one postsecondary institution for exemplary achievement in all three Pillars.  For this award, state selection committees are particularly encouraged to document how the nominees’ sustainability work has reduced college costs, increased completion rates, led to employment, and ensured robust civic skills among graduates; and to make an effort to consider diverse types of institutions.  Interested colleges and universities should contact their state higher education authorities for information on how to apply in their states.

Like the PK-12 awards, this category is entirely voluntary.  Hearing from interested colleges and universities may be helpful to state authorities considering 2014-2015 participation. State higher education authorities should contact U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools for more information.  They can find updated criteria and other state implementation guidance on our website.  All state authorities are encouraged to indicate their intent to nominate in 2015 by August 1, 2014. 

Competitions vary by state, but most states will be posting their applications in the fall with deadlines to submit to them in the winter. State authorities’ school, district and postsecondary nominations are due to ED by February 1, 2015.  Interested PK-12 schools and districts should continue to contact their state education agencies about the school and district award applications.  Have doubts about ED-GRS?  Some Frequently Asked Questions on all three award categories are available here.


Green School Exemplary Practices from our 2014 Honorees


Boston Latin School, founded in 1635, is the oldest public school in the country, and the largest school in the Boston Public School district, serving 2,400 students in grades 7–12. Students founded the Youth Climate Action Network (YouthCAN), an active after-school club that has implemented transformative sustainability initiatives.  Outdoor raised vegetable gardens, student-designed rain catchment systems, rooftop weather stations, a vertical garden in the cafeteria, a rooftop solar array, a state of the art hydroponic vegetable farm, a $75,000 energy lighting retrofit saving 200,000 KWh of energy/year, and a real-time building energy dashboard are just a few examples of the hands on learning components that students have fundraised for and implemented at the school.  YouthCAN has initiated educational and health programs for teachers and students alike, launching a school-wide “Get Informed” speaker series. >>>  

(Pictured left: On May 28th, several state officials and ED-GRS Director Andrea Falken received a student-led tour by Boston Latin School YouthCAN members.)

Mesa Elementary School, in Cortez, Colo., serves more than 30 percent Native American students.  Mesa is in its third year of working cooperatively with McKinstry, an energy-efficiency contractor, to address energy education and operational optimization.  The campaigns have challenged students and staff to continually assess, audit, and address energy and resource consumption at school and at home.  The school’s proactive maintenance staff has worked hand in hand with McKinstry to improve operational performance within the school while taking concerted efforts to implement ideas to reduce overall energy consumption especially during holiday and summer breaks.  A partnership with the San Juan Mountains Association has provided exceptional environmental education lessons, resource materials, and field trips for students, including Project Wild and Project Learning Tree professional development trainings for teachers with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.  >>>



Lenawee Intermediate School District TECH Center, in Adrian, Mich. has set aside a 10-acre parcel for students to learn how to convert conventionally farmed land to certified organic production.  Students are experimenting with vertical growing systems, hydroponics, and aquaponics. They test different varieties of compostable planters for local businesses. Students raise broiler chickens using free range practices and organic feeds to evaluate differences between conventional and natural husbandry.  A vermicomposting system was put in place to recycle food waste from the LISD TECH Center’s Culinary Arts program.  A team of students won Gold medals at the state Future Farmers of American competition for their pasture-raised pig project.  Biochemical technology students are working with Michigan State University Extension and Agri-Tech students to grow canola and make biodiesel fuel.  Agricultural waste from the site is made into ethanol through students’ study and hands-on work with cellulosic ethanol production. >>> 


Willamette High School, in Eugene, Ore., is a district leader in new facility management approaches. WHS recycles over 2,000 pounds of material every week, which is a 48 percent increase from 2010. A sizable outdoor school garden features more than two dozen large, raised beds that serve as skills training for students.  With assistance from local business partners, students operate aquaponic and aeroponic gardens, as well as a self-contained indoor hydroponic garden.  An array of civic engagement classes with hands-on learning components boosts individual development and team-building skills.  These classes range from the Willamette Improvement Team, which beautifies the school campus and creates a safe environment, to an Electrathon class, where students build electric go-cart sized cars and compete in races around the Pacific Northwest.  2014 has brought the construction of a new science wing.  The additional space will provide an opportunity to raise the level of integrated sustainability education for students.    >>>

Resources and Grants

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. 

June 4, 2014, 6:30-7:45 p.m. Rockets 2 Race Cars Teacher Program (NASA)
June 12, 2014, 2:00-2:45 p.m. Using DoD Fresh to Purchase Local (USDA)
June 26, 2014, 2:00-2:45 p.m. Tying It All Together and Digging In (USDA)
August 5, 2014, 3:00-5:00 p.m. National Energy Literacy Virtual Town Hall (DOE)

Education Facilities Clearinghouse

The Education Facilities Clearinghouse (EFC) collects and disseminates resources on effective practices for the planning, design, financing, procurement, construction, improvement, operation, and maintenance of safe, healthy, and high-performing schools. Free technical assistance for schools and districts is available.  Contact or 1-800-EFC-0938 for more information. >>> 


EPA Announces Funding to Clean Up Diesel Engines Nationwide

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of $9 million in grant funding for clean diesel projects to reduce diesel pollution and emissions exposure from the nation's existing fleet of diesel engines, including school buses.  The funding comes from EPA’s Diesel Emission Reduction Program (DERA) and will target the most cost-effective projects and fleets operating in poor air quality areas. >>> 


App of Note: The Great Outdoors in the Palm of Your Hand

Disneynature Explore combines an augmented reality experience with animal behavior game play to encourage children ages 4-8 to get outside and connect with nature. The technology allows 3-D images of animals to appear in the camera's viewer, providing wild adventures in a child's own backyard.  View surroundings through a butterfly’s eyes, follow tracks along with the bear to find its cub, and crack a nut like a chimpanzee. Additional features include a Spanish option, suggestions for outdoor play, photo journal capabilities, and fun sound effects. There is also an accompanying educator guide. >>> 

In the News

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Announces the Director's Award

The Director’s Award recognizes a State Education Agency official’s exemplary efforts to administer the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) recognition award and to advance green schools in their state, by: running a robust competition and nomination process; connecting more schools to resources in all three Pillars; amplifying the stories of applicants and honorees; helping schools to learn from one another; partnering with a variety of entities to bring more resources and expertise to schools; and exhibiting a dedication to exceptional school facilities, health and environmental education through activities outside of the administration of the ED-GRS award.  In the inaugural year of the Director’s Award, ED has exceptionally selected three individuals, one for every year of the award to date.  The first honorees are:


For 2012: Gilda Wheeler, Program Supervisor, Sustainability and Science, WA Office of Public Instruction, for Gilda’s role pioneering the multi-state, multi-sector committee structure, online application and scoring process, which set the tone for other states in the pilot year of ED-GRS. 


For 2013: Victoria Rydberg, Environmental Education Consultant, WI Department of Public Instruction, for revamping Wisconsin Green and Healthy Schools, enrolling hundreds of Wisconsin schools in this pathway to ED-GRS.



For 2014: Lesley Taylor, Consultant, Facilities Planning Policy & Standards, California Department of Education, for her outreach and work to develop a California Green Ribbon Schools program.

All three have participated in the Green Schools National Conference, state-wide green schools events, hosted the 2013 ‘Education Built to Last’ Facilities Best Practices Tour, and other efforts to advance green schools broadly.  We commend them for their work to promote environmental stewardship, health, and sustainability, and for inspiring even more schools to aim high.  All three will be honored at the July 22nd ceremony.

Coming soon:  Speaking of our annual Best Practices Tour, stay tuned for news of the 2014 Tour, which will take place August to October nationwide!


Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy announced the selection of 18 grantees for approximately $3.6 million through the Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training program. The grants fund training programs in local nonprofit organizations, community colleges, cities, states, tribes, and counties that provide unemployed and under-employed, including veterans, minority, and low income individuals with the skills and certifications needed to enter full-time careers in the environmental field. The funding also supports job placement and recruitment activities. These green jobs help protect public health and the environment by providing a skilled job force to clean up contamination and build more sustainable futures for local communities. >>> 

Events and Opportunities


Share Your Earth Changing Moment

The National Environmental Education Foundation invites you to participate in the My Earth Changing Moments campaign.  Earth Changing Moments are inspirational photo, video or mini-essay stories of an individual’s unique first connection with the environment.  The campaign asks you share your ‘aha moment’ about the environment with others and expand our national conversation on the environment.  To get started, you can view Cee Lo Green and EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe sharing their Earth Changing Moments >>> 


STEM Photography Competition

The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History in Albuquerque, NM, is hosting a STEM photography competition and accepting entries through August, 29 2014.  Anyone with an interest in STEM is asked to enter the “Atomic STEaM Photography Show" for a chance to win a cash prize and have their science, technology, engineering, art, or mathematics photos displayed in a nationally accredited, Smithsonian affiliated museum, from November 8 through January 4, 2015. >>> 

Connect with Green Strides on the Web

Green Strides: Environment, Health and Facilities at ED
ED-Green Ribbon Schools
Twitter: @EDGreenRibbon
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