Building a Greener Future: Green Ribbon Schools Award Winners

May 12, 2014

Butterfly gardens, backyard chickens and “brain breaks”

Butterfly gardens, backyard chickens and “brain breaks” are just a few of the reasons that schools are earning high marks for their green initiatives. Last month, 48 schools from across the country were honored for their efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, promote better health, and ensure effective environmental education, including civics and green career pathways. In addition, nine districts were honored for the District Sustainability Award.

On a federal level, Green Ribbon Schools is an important avenue for incentivizing schools to prioritize green initiatives. In fact, the award is one of the few national awards spotlighting schools that are creating greener, healthier learning environments. (Another award with a slightly different focus is HSC’s Green Cleaning Award.)

When announcing the winners, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said: “Today's honorees are modeling a comprehensive approach to being green by encompassing facility, wellness and learning into their daily operations. They are demonstrating ways schools can simultaneously cut costs, improve health, and engage students with hands-on learning that prepares them with the thinking skills necessary to be successful in college and careers.”

HSC couldn’t agree more, and we applaud all the winners for taking so many green steps forward. One school in Colorado reduced landfill-bound waste by 27 percent. Another launched a recycling program powered by kindergarteners’ door-to-door pickups of paper. The report highlights just how innovative schools have been, not just in green cleaning and recycling, but in teaching, too — whether students are learning rainwater harvesting, experimenting with solar energy or interviewing local farmers. In one Maryland school, water conservation, hydrofracking, nature and agriculture are woven into subjects like English, art and technology.

The schools were confirmed from a pool of candidates voluntarily nominated by 30 state education agencies. The list of selectees includes 39 public schools and nine private schools from 27 states. The public schools include 10 early learning programs, three charter, one magnet and three career and technical schools. The schools serve various grade levels, including 29 elementary, 16 middle and 18 high schools, with several schools having various K-12 configurations. Twenty-one of the 2014 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body and 18 are rural.

Winners shared a few things in common — they’ve prioritized more than one of the “three pillars” [link] identified by Green Ribbon Schools. They also share a drive to collaborate with nearby businesses, parks, colleges, farms, museums and many other entities. They do not, however, share the same-sized budgets. In the introduction to the report on winners, Andrea Suarez Falken, director of the Green Ribbon Schools Program, writes: “Our honorees are by no means the wealthiest schools and districts. In fact, over the last three years, nearly half of our honorees have educated underserved student populations, and not because we have a special award category for them. When it comes to green schools, these high-poverty schools come out on top when everyone plays together.”

Over and over again at HSC, we’ve seen the very same thing.

Congratulations to all the winners of this year’s Green Ribbon Schools awards! Learn more about Green Ribbon schools.