March 2023 newsletter

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March 2023

Infrastructure and Sustainability Updates from the U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education (ED or the Department) developed this newsletter to provide resources, promote events, and share inspiring stories of school sustainability. The Department also maintains resources on the Green Strides School Sustainability Resource Hub, including upcoming webinars and information on U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools honorees. 

In this issue:

In the News

ED Infrastructure and Sustainability Commitments - Wide

Make a School Infrastructure and Sustainability Commitment Today!

The Department invites national, regional, and local nonprofits, foundations, businesses, and community-based organizations to share your bold commitment(s) to advance school sustainability, encompassing infrastructure, health, environmental sustainability education, climate, and environmental justice in America.  Please share how your organization or entity will advance at least one of these infrastructure and sustainability priorities:

  • Priority #1: Ensure equitable access to healthy, safe, sustainable, 21st century physical learning environments.
  • Priority #2: Develop, maintain, and provide environmental sustainability learning, such as climate literacy, green workforce development, and outdoor learning.
  • Priority #3: Build capacity for infrastructure, sustainability, environmental justice, and climate mitigation and adaptation in schools.

Complete the online form to register your commitment by May 31.

Green Schools Conference 2023

ED is Honored with Best of Green Schools 2023 Award

The Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council and Green Schools National Network named the U.S. Department of Education a 2023 recipient of the Best of Green Schools Awards in the category of Transformation. Since 2012, ED-GRS has recognized close to 700 school programs across 46 education authorities for progress in reducing environmental impacts, improving health and wellness, and providing effective environmental and sustainability education. More recently, the Department has worked to establish new infrastructure and sustainability capacity bolstering programs, launched private sector commitments, and developed structures internally and across the federal government to advance these efforts. The Best of Green Schools Awards were announced on March 1 during the national Green Schools Conference in New Orleans. The awards celebrate the hard work being done — by people, schools, campuses and organizations — to push the green school movement forward.

ED-GRS logo new in 2022

2023 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Coming Soon!

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) received 41 nominees from 18 states for its 2023 competition. ED is currently reviewing the 2023 nominees and will be announcing the honorees around Earth Day. The honorees are invited to a summer ceremony in Washington, D.C., where they will receive a sustainable plaque; will be the subject of media attention; and have their efforts celebrated. Other schools, in turn, may learn about and adopt their practices.

For those schools that have not already received the award, now is a great time to begin preparing for the 2023-2024 application cycle by using the resources and programs available on the Green Strides School Sustainability Resources Hub and by contacting their state education authority. Interested colleges and universities should contact their state higher education authorities, while schools and districts should contact state education agencies

Resources and Opportunities

Energy logo

Join The Department of Energy's Efficient and Healthy Schools Campaign

The Department of Energy’s Efficient and Healthy Schools Campaign is currently inviting schools and districts to join its 2022-2023 recognition! This is an opportunity to gain national recognition for facilities improvements that result in improved energy efficiency and indoor environment to support health and learning. The Campaign is also recognizing schools and districts that have made an effort to reduce emissions and improve resilience. The application process is simple, with a few questions about your work scope, approach, and outcomes. The submission deadline is March 10, 2023 and you can contact with questions or for assistance.

Outdoor Classroom Challenge

Take the Outdoor Classroom Challenge

Project Green Schools is challenging schools across the country to develop and implement a meaningful outdoor classroom and learning space that awards one grand prize of $10,000 to further enhance an existing space or build a new space. Schools should submit a formal write-up, proposed budget, and design of their outdoor learning classroom/space. Project Green Schools will invite the top five designs to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges in the spring to determine the $10,000 winner. Applications are due March 26. All U.S. based pre-K – 12 school are eligible to apply

Green Difference Maker Awards

Nominate a Green Difference Maker Today

Each year, Project Green Schools recognizes environmental leaders of all ages, from school administrators to community leaders to outstanding students from the U.S. and across the globe. Do you know someone working to make a positive environmental impact for their community and our planet? You can nominate a Green Difference Maker today in one of these categories: Climate Education and Action; Energy; Food and Agriculture; Green and Healthy Schools; Land; Air; Natural World; Outdoor Learning and Exploration; STEM and the Future of Sustainability; Water Conservation; Waste Management; and Lifetime Achievement. Applications are open through Friday, March 24. Learn more and apply.

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

Below, we spotlight three of the 2022 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School Honorees (ED-GRS). Get to know the 2022 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) in our annual Highlights Report and on our website.

Elms Elementary students germinating seeds

Elms Elementary School; Jackson, New Jersey  

Elms Elementary School (EES) features geothermal heating and cooling, LED lighting, new HVAC controls, and improved insulation. Its solar array generates 40% of the school’s energy needs, and the school scores 96 on ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. EES courtyard rain barrels irrigate the sensory garden and refill the 500-gallon aquaponics system. Students participate in recycling programs, such as Crayola ColorCycle, Trex plastic recycling, and on-site composting, and contribute to a food share table and a local food pantry to reduce waste. All cleaning products are Green Seal certified, and EES implements integrated pest management. Daily inspections by staff ensure that EES controls moisture from leaks, condensation, and excess humidity. The on-site aquaponics system engages students in learning about sustainable farming practices and a balanced ecosystem. Lessons in sustainability and environmental challenges focus on water conservation, plastic accumulation in oceans, pollinator declines, beach erosion, renewable transportation alternatives, invasive species’ impacts on wildlife, and global access to clean water. Students participate in Trout in the Classroom, raising eggs and releasing the fingerlings. All grade levels travel on local nature-based field trips. 

caddo parish magnet high school environmental education

Caddo Parish Magnet High School; Shreveport, Louisiana 

At Caddo Parish Magnet High School (Caddo), student Green and Interact clubs spearhead environmental service and stewardship, including participation in national convenings, education about the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a monthly blog, composting, and cleanup days. Through partnerships with the Louisiana Water Environment Association, Caddo students identify ways to solve water problems. Annually, students engage in Envirothon, a state natural resources agency sponsored event, to demonstrate their knowledge of environmental science and natural resource management. Students use the nearby nature and wildlife trail systems for physical activity and grow and harvest produce in the adjoining community garden for use in the cafeteria and neighboring communities. The original 1964 campus buildings have received efficiency upgrades over time, including new thermostats, HVAC systems, and roofs, and the school participates in Cenergistic’s energy savings plan. Students engage in the school’s energy conservation efforts through programs and activities in Advanced Placement environmental science and Greens Club. Water quality and grounds efforts include student research and construction of stormwater retention areas; the installation of a greenhouse, rain barrels, raised beds, and water bottle filling stations; student water quality monitoring and storm drain marking; and the designation of a National Wildlife Federation Certified Schoolyard Habitat and Monarch Butterfly Waystation. Student landscaping committee members built wire composting bins. The principal picks up coffee grinds from a local Caddo alumna-owned coffee shop, and student volunteers mix shredded paper and coffee grounds to compost. Caddo has a long tradition of hosting “stress relief” picnics every semester during the school day. Extracurricular offerings, from service and stewardship and yoga in the courtyard to knitting club, provide other outlets to relieve student stress.

Cassidy Elementary school electric vehicle

Cassidy Elementary School; Lexington, Kentucky 

Cassidy Elementary School’s outdoor classroom includes accessible raised bed gardens, a butterfly habitat, a rain garden, composting, vermiculture, an erosion station, a soil percolation station, and animal tracks and insect exploratory regions. There are sensory, herb, and literature gardens, and a Kentucky native species area. Each year, through the Trout in the Classroom program, students explore ecosystems as they raise trout from eggs to understand their life cycle, water quality, and their local watersheds. Students in Scientists and Engineers Empowering Kids Science Club participate in projects and campaigns to increase energy conservation and awareness. Cassidy was the first school in Fayette County Public Schools to implement the EPA Air Quality Flag Program. Students participate in citizen science, learn about watersheds and macroinvertebrates, and engage in storm drain stenciling. Cassidy teachers attend the Bluegrass Greensource Teacher Environmental Academy to learn about public transportation, energy usage, solar energy, and wastewater treatment. Cassidy participates in the Electric Vehicle STEM Education Project through the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research. Students at Cassidy learn how electric transportation benefits the environment and human health. The Cassidy Leadership Team collects bottle caps to upcycle into benches. Cassidy receives locally sourced produce, offers a bike and walk to school day, and celebrates an annual Special Needs Awareness Week. A family needs center, school psychologist, occupational therapist, wellness night, and weekend food backpack program look out for the needs of the whole child. 


Green Strides Design

Take Advantage of the Ongoing Green Strides Webinar Series 

The Green Strides Webinar Series has promoted over 3,000 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 (Note: All times listed are ET.)

March 8, 6–7 p.m.  Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Resource Collections (NOAA)

March 15, 1–2 p.m.  Engaging Youth in Ocean Health and Conservation (NOAA/OCTO)

April 12, 2–3 p.m. Climate Crisis Awareness and Action in Higher Education (AASHE)

April 26, 2–3 p.m. Campus Wide Solutions to Zero Waste (AASHE)


Greenbuild 2023 Save the Date

Save the Date: Greenbuild International Conference and Expo

Save the date for Greenbuild 2023, to be held at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center Sept. 26-29. Greenbuild is the worlds largest conference and expo dedicated to green building, bringing together industry leaders, experts, and frontline professionals dedicated to sustainable building. It will feature an education track.

Students access wetland using a dock

2021 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School Wrightsville Beach Elementary School (NC) offers marine science, ecology, and kayaking from its school dock.