Net Zero | Net Positive | 100% Literate

December 07, 2011

by Mark Bishop, vice president of policy and communications

It was only last spring when U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley announced the creation of a “Green Ribbon Schools” award program at the U.S. Department of Education.

While health and environmental advocates were thrilled about this idea and collaboration, none of us understood how fast this process really could move. I mean, who could imagine the federal government could launch such a significant and broad-reaching program in less than a year?

Well, in just about seven months, we’ve gone from an idea to reality. This week, the Department of Education announced:

33 states and the District of Columbia have submitted intents to nominate schools for the new Green Ribbon Schools awards program launched this past September.

Being part of the process has been exciting for me. I’ve been impressed at how the Department of Education is trying to rethink the ways it interfaces with environmental and health issues. And I for one am excited to better integrate these issues in how we evaluate school success.

I think the recent communication from the Department of Education nicely summed up the long-term goals of the program. They are looking for schools that come closest to the ideal of “net zero environmental impact of facilities, net positive health impact on students and staff, and 100% environmentally literate graduates.”

As Secretary Duncan said, this program can help schools “enhance their work to effectively prepare graduates for 21st century careers.”

Check out the press release to see if your school is participating in this inaugural year. If not, contact your state department of education leaders and tell them to get on board for year two.

So congrats to the Department of Education, and strong kudos to our friends and colleagues who led this initiative early on including the U.S. Green Building Council, the Campaign for Environmental Literacy, the National Wildlife Federation and the Earth Day Network.