October 2022 Green Strides Newsletter

Green Strides Design


          U.S. Department of Education

   Green Strides

In the October 2022 Green Strides Newsletter

In the News

Discovery Charter School invasive species removal

Apply to Your State Now to Become a 2023 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School, District or Postsecondary Sustainability Awardee

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) is a recognition award for school sustainability that connects school built and natural environments, health, and learning. For over a decade, it has been the anchor for the Department’s work related to environmental sustainability. Schools, districts, postsecondary institutions, and early learning centers of all types that show progress in all three award Pillars are eligible to apply to their state education authorities. The ED-GRS Pillars are: 1) reducing environmental impact and costs; 2) improving health and wellness; and 3) offering effective environmental and sustainability education.

For those schools progressing in all three of these areas that have not previously received the ED-GRS award, now is a great time to contact your state about the 2022-2023 application cycle.  All schools can advance toward these aims by using the resources on the Green Strides School Sustainability Resource Hub. Interested colleges and universities may contact their state higher education authorities, while schools and districts may contact state educational agencies. If your state has not submitted nominations for this federal recognition award in the past, you can play a role in requesting that it does this year! State education authorities can find award implementation guidance on the Department's website and may email U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools for more information on award administration in states.  

PS 90 climate change presentation

ED Releases its Climate Adaptation Plan Progress Report

In January 2021, Executive Order 14008 directed all agencies to develop climate action plans (CAPs). In September 2021, ED published its CAP. Over the last year, ED has looked for opportunities to support reducing the agency's own footprint and that of schools across the nation, improving health, increasing climate resiliency, and improving students’ environmental literacy. View the ED and other federal agency CAP progress reports here.

White House logo

Biden-⁠Harris Administration Advances Commitment to Create More Equitable Access to Nature in Communities

As part of the President’s America the Beautiful initiative, the Biden-Harris administration celebrated the signing of the “United States Government Interagency Memorandum of Understanding on Promoting Equitable Access to Nature in Nature- Deprived Communities” by 10 Federal departments and agencies. This effort focuses on strengthening investments in communities which have been locked out of the benefits nature provides to ensure all Americans can benefit from safe parks, natural areas, and waterways where they live, work, and play by expanding access to local parks, tree canopy cover, conservation areas, open space and water-based recreation, public gardens, beaches, and waterways.


National Park Service Partners with ED's 21st Century Community Learning Center Sites

In partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) and the Department’s 21st Century Community Learning Center (21stCCLC) grant program, the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) announced the awardees of this year’s NPS-21st CCLC Greening STEM Grant. This marks the third consecutive year that NEEF has partnered with NPS and ED to deliver STEM programming that engages youth from underresourced and/or underrepresented communities in citizen science, environmental monitoring, and other STEM activities at NPS sites across the country. All resources and related content developed under these grants will be made available via the Department’s You4Youth professional learning portal.

Average temperatures map
Undaunted K12 Logo with Tagline

Tracking Heat Related School Closures

Floods and high temperatures forced school districts in Baltimore, Cleveland, Eastern Kentucky, Jackson, Miss., Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Texas to dismiss students early or cancel school altogether. In late May and early June, temperatures soared into the 90s in Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Maine — places where schools have not historically needed air conditioning and are now ill-prepared to handle heat waves. This spring, the Washington Post reported that a decade ago, American schools closed for heat an average of three or four days annually. This past year, that figure doubled to six or seven days closed due to extreme heat. UndauntedK12 is working to prevent schools closing for extreme heat from becoming the norm. Those who wish to join the campaign, may visit the #ClimateReadySchools  website for more information or to submit extreme weather school closures.

Aspen This Is Planet ED

Aspen Launches This Is Planet ED to Broaden Scope of Work

Building on the success of K12 Climate Action, the Aspen Institute has launched This Is Planet ED to expand existing K-12 work to also encompass early childhood, higher education, and children's media. Co-chairs of the K12 Climate Action Commission former Sec. of Education John B. King Jr. and former Governor of New Jersey Christine Todd Whitman discussed the announcement here. Over two years, the Commission embarked upon a national listening tour that led to the development of a K12 Climate Action Plan, which identifies opportunities for the education sector to prepare today’s students to lead a sustainable future and succeed in a clean energy economy. 

Resources and Opportunities

pollution prevention challenge

A Pollution Prevention Storytelling Challenge for Secondary and Postsecondary Students

EPA's Toxics Release Inventory and Pollution Prevention Programs have launched Pollution Prevention Works: A Storytelling Challenge for Students, aimed at high school and college students. The challenge invites students to use reported pollution prevention information to identify a facility or set of facilities that have made noteworthy achievements. Students may make a video, write an article, develop an infographic, or story map illustrating how implemented pollution source reduction practices have led to reductions in chemical releases to air, water, or land. The challenge is intended to showcase achievements in environmental stewardship. EPA will award a total of $50,000 in prize money across two categories: high school and college/university. The deadline to apply is Feb. 17, 2023.

Solar Decathlon

Solar Decathlon Applications Open Through Oct. 26

Are you a postsecondary student looking to make a difference in the clean energy industry? Get together a team from your school and apply now for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. In the 2023 Design Challenge, a one-year, design-only competition, collegiate teams are challenged to design high-performance, low-carbon buildings powered by renewables. Finalist teams will be invited to vie for victory during the competition event at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. Apply here by Oct. 26.

Beekeeping at Paramount Brookside Indiana

Spotlight on a Resource: Beekeeping Grant

Whole Kids Foundation Bee Grants support educational beehives and bee programming at schools so students can learn about the role of pollinators. New applicants are invited to apply for the Traditional Bee Grant, which either awards $1,500 monetary grants or equipment grants. Applications are due Oct. 15.


Green Strides Design

Take Advantage of the Ongoing Green Strides Webinar Series 

The Green Strides Webinar Series has promoted over 2,800 sessions that provide free tools to reduce schools’ environmental impact and costs, improve health and wellness, and teach effective environmental education. Consult the webinar calendar, and submit suggestions for listing additional free, publicly-available webinars related to school, district, and postsecondary sustainability to ed.green.ribbon.schools@ed.gov. (Note: All times listed are ET.)

Oct. 11, 1–5 p.m. White House Summit on Indoor Air Quality via Livestream (White House)

Oct. 12, 1–2 p.m. Retrofit Packages for Schools:  Performance Requirements, Energy Savings and Costs (EHS)

Oct. 13, 2–3 p.m. The Importance of Nature Access in Healing and Recovering from Trauma (Children & Nature Network)

Oct. 18, 2–3 p.m. Using Federal Funds to Build Connections (Safe Routes Partnership)

Oct. 19, 2–3 p.m. An Introduction to Safe Routes to School (Safe Routes Partnership)

Oct. 26, 2–3 p.m. Pollution Prevention Works: A Storytelling Challenge for Students (EPA)

Oct. 27, 1–2 p.m. Lighting Retrofits for Schools (Lawrence Berkeley National Lab)

Nov. 1, 11 a.m.–12 p.m. Inspiring a Clean Energy Workforce (DOE)

Nov. 1, 1–2:15 p.m. Portfolio Manager 101 (EPA)

Nov. 2, 12–1 p.m. Portfolio Manager – Ask the Expert (EPA)

Nov. 2, 1–2 p.m. Overview of Campus Race to Zero Waste 2023 Competition (NWF)

Nov. 3, 1–2:15 p.m. Portfolio Manager 201 (EPA)

Nov. 7, 6–7 p.m. Understanding Volcanic Eruptions (NASA)

Nov. 8, 1–2:15 p.m. Portfolio Manager 301 (EPA)

Nov. 8, 7–8 p.m. Explore Solar System & Beyond: Space Sailing! (NASA)

Nov. 9, 1–2 p.m. Landfill Diversion and Why It Matters (NWF)

Meet the 2022 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

Get to know the 2022 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools in our annual Highlights Report. Below, we spotlight three of the 2022 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools.

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh great lakes research

University of Wisconsin; Oshkosh, Wisconsin 

The University of Wisconsin -- Oshkosh (UWO) tracks and inventories its greenhouse gas emissions, signed Second Nature’s Carbon Commitment, and has a Climate Action Plan. UWO is committed to its goals of LEED Gold certification for new construction projects and LEED Silver certification for renovation projects, with four buildings currently certified Gold and five buildings certified Silver. Buildings include such features as solar thermal hot water heating, geothermal systems, and photovoltaic arrays. UWO is home to two anaerobic digestion systems, which convert 10,000 tons of yard and food waste per year to electrical energy. Maintenance of grounds includes the use of four 1,000-gallon rain barrel systems, paid for by the student green fund, which collect rainwater for use in watering around campus. The on-campus Environmental Research and Innovation Center leads Wisconsin in Great Lakes beach water quality monitoring. Hands-on internships have students learning various sustainability-related STEM skills, including aquatic invasive species monitoring, well testing, microplastics research, and lab operations. UWO’s “Harvest Room” produces 33% of the lettuce used in the dining halls as well as growing herbs through 12 tower gardens. The Cabinet is the free on-campus student food pantry. The Outdoor Adventure Center offers student-led outdoor activities and trips that combine recreation, sustainability, and education. Sustainability is a general education learning requirement integrated into the University Studies Program. UWO offers environmental studies, environmental engineering technology, and environmental health majors and minors, as well as a sustainable management master’s degree and certificate in environmental studies teaching. In 2017, UWO formed the Sustainability Institute for Regional Transformations, which facilitates interdisciplinary sustainability research, supports sustainability education, hosts events, and works to enhance on-campus sustainability using the campus as a living laboratory. Dedicated sustainability grants provide funding to students, faculty, and staff for sustainability research and projects.   

Recycled bottle cap art

Community High School District 99; Downers Grove, Illinois 

Community High School District 99 installed LED lighting in gymnasiums and covers on swimming pools, reducing heating costs by 28% and pools’ water consumption by 38%. District 99 has added automatic sensors for lights and fixtures, water bottle refilling stations, and more efficient heating, cooling, and chillers. The SchoolDude Preventative Maintenance Software program is used to maintain optimal efficiency on all systems. Cisterns store rainwater to supply the irrigation system. District 99 powers its electricity usage via Green-E Energy Certified National Wind RECs and has installed demonstration solar panels to enhance student learning opportunities. The district uses certified green cleaning products and pest management services. Mindful mornings, positive behavioral interventions programming, and live plants around the building support educator and student wellness alike. AP environmental science students travel to a water treatment plant, landfill, sustainable business, and energy generating facility. District 99 is restoring community land to native prairie with a natural laboratory for student use. Earth Action Club is dedicated to conservation and environmental education. An Outdoor Environmental Club engages students in outdoor recreation activities, such as camping, hiking, and canoeing. In 2018 and 2019, the science department led an optional, family-funded excursion to Costa Rica to provide the opportunity to see sustainability and biodiversity in action. District 99 partners with Morton Arboretum for research opportunities and internships. 

Academy of the sacred heart garden

Academy of the Sacred Heart; New Orleans, Louisiana 

Academy of the Sacred Heart students engage in composting, gardening, and Pontchartrain beach cleanups and volunteer for nonprofit organizations at home and abroad that promote sustainability. The Innovation Lab promotes design thinking methodology to problem-solving, such as engineering an entirely renewable energy source powered city or researching fast fashion and designing upcycled clothing. Students in the iLab exercise design thinking, empathy, and civic values by participating in social entrepreneurship projects, such as designing campus stormwater management solutions. They study the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, build birdhouses, make sustainable Mardi Gras decorations, prepare holiday food boxes, and participate in the National Geographic GeoChallenge to take action as champions for people and the planet. Sacred Heart’s Digital Media students dedicate 35% of their weekly show to sustainability. Students in environmental science courses study public-owned natural resources, biodiversity and invasive species, and environmental disasters and governmental policies and produce a schoolwide newsletter with concise sustainability lessons. Sacred Heart contracted with Johnson Controls, an energy savings company, to implement a phased efficiency program, including audits and upgrades. Renovations to historic structures dating to the 1800s have brought upgraded controls and mechanical systems, water bottle filling stations, as well as container gardens and rainwater collection features. Sacred Heart conducts waste and transportation audits; sponsors various collection drives, from plastic bags and glass to furniture and uniforms; and composts food waste with a local company. The cafeteria offers reusable trays and metal cutlery and contracts with food service that prioritizes the availability of healthy, sustainable choices.


Gadsden Elementary School water bottle filling

October is Children’s Health Month and Features Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

This October, take some time to learn about children's environmental health. Children are often more vulnerable to health hazards like environmental pollutants than adults due to differences in behavior and biology. They eat, breathe, and drink more relative to their body mass than adults do, and their natural defenses are less developed. In addition, children in highly exposed or underserved communities may have reduced resilience and ability to recover. Part of Children's Health Month, National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (Oct. 23-29) is a call to bring together individuals, organizations, industry, and state, tribal, and local governments to increase lead poisoning prevention awareness in an effort to reduce childhood exposure to lead. Find resources to reduce lead in school and childcare facility drinking water here.

National Farm To School Month Logo

October Is National Farm to School Month …

National Farm to School Month was designated by Congress to symbolize the growing importance of farm-to-school programs as a means to improve child nutrition, support local economies, and educate children about the origins of food. The National Farm to School Network has developed resources and activities to promote Farm to School Month in schools, communities, and media outlets.

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Beekeeping Club

October is Also Campus Sustainability Month

Campus Sustainability Month is a celebration of sustainability in higher education. During October, colleges and universities organize events on campus and elsewhere to engage and inspire incoming students and other campus stakeholders to become sustainability change agents. Events include teach-ins, sustainability pledge drives, zero energy-concerts, waste audits, green sporting events, letter-writing campaigns, and service projects.

drew charter LEED gold facility

EDspaces Education Conference is Nov. 2-4 in Portland, Oregon

EDspaces unites architects, designers, administrators, and facilities managers who are reimagining traditional school settings with manufacturers, distributors, and service providers who are offering products and solutions that motivate students. The EDspaces Education Conference features an educational and professional development series of 50+ education sessions conducted in classrooms designed by architecture and design firms that competed to share their innovative ideas for the future of learning.

K-12 Facilities Forum Logo

K-12 Facilities Forum is Nov. 13-15 in Palm Springs, California

The K-12 Facilities Forum is an annual event that connects and informs K-12 facilities leaders and business administrators involved in all aspects of planning, design, construction, and operations. The event will take place Nov. 13-15 in Palm Springs, California, and more information on attending can be found here.  ED's Special Advisor for Infrastructure and Sustainability will lead a discussion on federal funding for school infrastructure.

Green Schools Conference Logo Square

Attend the Green Schools Conference

The Green Schools Conference will be held Feb. 27-March 1, 2023, at the Sheraton New Orleans. This event brings together all the players involved in making green schools a reality: people who lead, operate, build, and teach in schools. Designed to educate, connect, and inspire, attendees of the three-day, in-person conference explore interdisciplinary content during general sessions, while also having dedicated time with peers to work through specific challenges, share best practices, and generate momentum to further green school actions across the country. The 2023 program will address topics including environmental impact, health and well-being, sustainability literacy, equity, and whole school sustainability. The conference will also be an opportunity to connect with representatives of ED-GRS!

Merced Union High School District FFA students present their sheep at the Merced County Fair

Merced Union High School District (MUHSD) in Atwater, California is a 2022 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School District Sustainability Awardee. MUHSD Future Farmers of America students present their sheep at the Merced County Fair.

Connect With Green Strides

Green Strides: Resources for School Facilities, Health, and Environment
U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools
Facebook: @EDGreenRibbonSchools
Twitter: @EDGreenRibbon
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