We're thrilled to spread the word about the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) recognition award, which recognizes schools for best practices in energy, water and waste management, healthy school environments and practices and environmental education. Is your school working hard to be green? Apply by
December 17 January 4 to be selected by Illinois as one of four state nominees and help inspire even more green schools.
It's especially exciting to see this program launch because HSC was part of the initial brainstorming surrounding the need for this award, and we're also going to be amongst the reviewers in Illinois. We recently spoke with Andrea Falken, director of the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools program.
In addition to recognizing schools, Falken said the program coordinates federal agencies that share common goals. Plus, the application itself has galvanized schools to strive toward greener practices and encouraged them to reflect on their achievements.
"Schools weren't always hearing about resources from the Department of Education, Environmental Protection Agency, or Department of the Interior. . . and we had other agencies working on indoor air quality and reducing energy use. All of these agencies have a ton of programs, but they were disconnected. We launched this award along with our Green Strides Webinar Series, and we decided on 'three pillars' of achievement around green schools."
These pillars, Falken said, proved to be critical for bringing a uniform set of goals to the green schools movement: "Now you hear school leaders talking about which pillars they're meeting, and they're all on the same page."
The pillar areas are:
- Pillar I: Reduce environmental impact and costs;
- Pillar II: Improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and
- Pillar III: Provide effective environmental and sustainability literacy, incorporating STEM, civic skills, and green career pathways.
"The idea for it and the structure truly came from the public," Falken said. The department listened to community members and non-profit organizations such as HSC and worked together to create a plan that was feasible and inexpensive to implement but still highly effective at maximizing resources and creating change.
Falken said that, in addition, the award promotes equity. "We had schools winning that were disadvantaged, serving large numbers of free and reduced lunch eligible and other underserved communities. What that told us is that these good school health and sustainability practices and environmental education are being used as a springboard to promote equity and achievement. Learning about the environment can be used to get kids hooked on math, science, engineering."
In the end, she stresses, the award is not just about the honorees. "It's making new connections that are doing good things for schools. We're using existing federal resources and finding new ways to use them, and then helping more and more schools emulate the best practices of the honorees."
- Learn about free webinars to help schools increase health, wellness and environmental education.
- Start the application for the Green Ribbon Schools award in Illinois. For other states' schools, see the Department’s contact page to connect with your state education agency about the nomination process in your jurisdiction.
- Read highlights from the 2012 ED-GRS honorees.