USGBC Announces 2014 Best of Green Schools Honorees

Published on: 
17 Dec 2014
Author: 
Aline Peterson

Recipients Represent the Best Environmental Efforts in Schools Across U.S. 

Washington, D.C. – (Dec. 17, 2014) – The Center for Green Schools at USGBC announced today the 2014 “Best of Green Schools” recipients, recognizing 10 individuals, institutions, projects and events representing the best environmental efforts in schools across the country this year. The list highlights the national leaders and innovators in school sustainability for the year.

“Selecting the Best of Green Schools honorees is an exciting and challenging process, as there are so many fantastic examples of efforts being made in communities large and small,” said Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools. “Some of the honorees go about their work quietly, others are in public positions and have the attention of a national audience. Every one of the honorees is a leader, taking risks, setting an example for others, innovating and diligently pursuing a world in which every student attends a green school within this generation.”

Recipients include:

  • K-12 School : The Monarch School (Houston, Texas): Since its founding in 1997, The Monarch School’s environmental education program has offered students with special needs the opportunity learn about the environment on campus and to share that knowledge with their families and the greater Houston community.

  • The Monarch School is committed to providing a healthy environment in which to deliver education and services to individuals with neurological differences. Since its founding in 1997, the Monarch School's environmental education program has offered students with special needs the opportunity to learn about the environment on campus and to share that knowledge with their families and the greater Houston community. The school's Living Building Challenge Studio Classroom is the ultimate extension for Monarc's sustainability efforts and is the first project in Texas built to meet the requirements of the Living Building Challenge (LBC). Only five certified Living Buildings exist in the world. The LBC is the most advanced measure possible for sustainability in the built environment. The studio serves as an outdoor living classroom where student's day-to-day interactive decision making helps the building achieve net zero energy and water performance. Monarch's environmental program showcases solar energy, wind power, geothermal energy, and incorporates active water harvesting. Check out the LEED project profile of The Monarch School for a closer look at the strategies they implemented at their LEED Gold school.

  • Higher Education Institution: Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, Mich.): Over the past two decades, the Western Michigan University (WMU) community has collectively served as a leader in sustainability through energy conservation efforts, recycling and waste reduction programs and by facilitating cooperative research into green manufacturing practices.

  • Western Michigan University's sustainability journey began in the 1990's when the school eliminated the use of coal and implemented recycling. Over the past two decades, the school community has collectively served as a leader in sustainability through energy conservation and renewable energy implementation efforts, recycling and waste reduction programs. WMU also facilitates cooperative research into green manufacturing practices. With 20 buildings on campus that are either certified or registered, the University's commitment to LEED is one of the highest in Michigan. In 2015, the school aims to establish a LEED Lab program on campus. The school has been recognized in Princeton Review's Guide to 322 Green Colleges. Additionally, the Sustainable Endowments Institute recognizes WMU as one of 80 national campus sustainability leaders and a Michigan Green Leader by the Detroit Free Press.

  • Ambassador: Mark Swiger (Wheeling, W.Va.): Mark Swiger is a teacher in Marshall County Schools. Active locally, statewide and nationally, Mark was behind the movement in his county school system to work toward greener building and sustainable operations. Mark partners with the entrepreneurial program at a local university to encourage the initiation of green businesses.
  •  

    Mark Swiger is a teacher in Marshall County Schools, West Virginia. He has devoted himself to making our world greener. He offers workshops and classes to students and educators about how to live and teach more sustainably. Active locally, statewide, and nationally, Mark was behind the movement in his county school system to work toward greener building and sustainable operations. Mark served as an adviser as two of the schools in his district, Hilltop Elementary and Cameron High School, and applied for and received the state's Black Bear designation and ultimately the Green Ribbon School Award. Mark has written grant proposals for continuing "green" education for educators, and he has a partnership with the entrepreneurial program at a local university where he encourages the initiation of green businesses.


  • Policy Maker: Representative Brenda Gilmore (Nashville, Tenn.): As the chair and founder of the Tennessee Green Schools Caucus, Representative Gilmore has worked with colleagues within Tennessee and across state lines to promote activities that improve the places where our children learn. In 2014, Representative Gilmore championed legislation that encourages school districts to utilize less toxic products and schedule all cleaning and maintenance acts at times that limit student and staff exposure to health harming chemicals.

  • As the chair and founder of the Tennessee Green Schools Caucus, Representative Gilmore has worked with colleagues within Tennessee and across state lines to promote activities that improve the places where our children learn. Over the past four years, she has utilized her position of leadership to share best practices with state legislators from around the country, invited neighboring lawmakers from across the aisle to testify in Tennessee and has spoken at national forums on the importance of green schools. In 2014, Representative Gilmore championed legislation that encourages school districts to utilize less toxic products and schedule all cleaning and maintenance acts at times that limit student and staff exposure to health harming chemicals.

  • Student Leadership: Dunloggin Middle School Oyster Gardeners (Ellicott City, Md.): For the past three years, Dunloggin Middle School Oyster Gardeners have cared for and relocated nearly 12,000 oyster spat as part of an initiative to help clean the Chesapeake Bay. Each year since it's inception, the oyster gardening group has grown in size and increased the total amount of oyster spat they have relocated in the bay.
  •  

    For the past three years, Dunloggin Middle School Oyster Gardeners have cared for and relocated nearly 12,000 oyster spat as part of an initiative to help clean the Chesapeake Bay. Each year since it's inception, the oyster gardening group has grown in size and increased the total amount of oyster spat they have relocated in the bay. The Oyster Gardener project began when several students went on a field trip to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and found only one live oyster while performing a dredge across an oyster reef. The students decided to take action. They researched the history of oyster harvesting in Maryland and discovered why oysters are so important to the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay. The students partnered with Kentmorr Marina on the Eastern Shore and placed the cages in water off its docks. Every two weeks throughout the year, students and their parents visit the cages to provide care for the baby oysters.

  • Business Leadership: Bristol-Myers Squibb (New York, N.Y.): Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) established a senior level Sustainability Council in New Jersey in 2009. Since the summer of 2013, BMS has funded a Green Schools Fellow at New Jersey School Boards Association, a position that is not only transforming how school board members view their responsibilities but also changing how other School Board Associations approach green schools education.
  •  

    Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) established a senior level Sustainability Council in New Jersey in 2009. Since the summer of 2013, BMS has funded a Green Schools Fellow at New Jersey School Boards Association, a position that is not only transforming how school board members view their responsibilities but also changing how other School Board Associations approach green schools education. The position is a fully funded, three-year post at NJSBA, and BMS's commitment extends beyond simply funding the work. The company has opened up its campus to the Fellow, offering up their time and their own expertise at sustainability management and data collection for her and NJSBA's benefit. In their day-to-day work and in their involvement in their community, BMS shows true leadership in creating a sustainable future.

  • Collaboration: University at Buffalo, the State University of New York (Buffalo, N.Y.): In partnership with the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York (SUNY-Buffalo) worked to convene over 150 organizations and more than 300 members of the general public in three region-wide Environmental Congresses to create “Our Shared Agenda for Action”, a blueprint for action on regional environmental issues.

  • In partnership with the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY-Buffalo) worked to convene over 150 organizations and more than 300 members of the general public in three region-wide Environmental Congresses to create "Our Shared Agenda for Action." This served as a blueprint for action on regional environmental issues. Out of this process the Environmental Alliance was born. Through a five year period of evolution, the Alliance now has over 100 environmental organizations and has become not only a group of groups but also the region's voice for environmental and sustainability issues. It has active working groups in energy and climate change, transportation, food, habitat, environmental justice, parks and recreation, urban regeneration, waste and pollution, as well as process groups in education and outreach, advocacy and capacity building. SUNY-Buffalo's efforts have paid dividends on its original investment in the form of newly created dynamic internships and service learning opportunities for students and strong partnerships with key companies throughout the area.

  • Transformation: Green Bronx Machine (South Bronx, New York, N.Y.): Green Bronx Machine is transforming an unused library in a 100+ year-old school building into the first ever Health, Wellness and Biodiversity Center in the South Bronx–one of America’s poorest Congressional Districts.

  • Green Bronx Machine (GBM) is transforming an unused library in a 100+ year-old school building into the first ever Health, Wellness and Biodiversity Center in the South Bronx at one of America's poorest congressional districts. This food and energy net-positive space is a place of inquiry, wonder, inspiration, and aspiration for students. It is also a 21st century workforce development center serving the entire community after school, on weekends and during the summer. GBM serves 300 students and 30 teachers per week, and has hosted professional development sessions for up to 40 paraprofessionals. GBM's proprietary curriculum is fully integrated with the school's core curricula, helping to shape views on food and energy systems for students growing up in what is a true concrete jungle and food desert in one of the largest stretches of public housing in New York City.


  • Community Event: Learning Gate Community School (Lutz, Fla.): EcoFest 2014, presented by Learning Gate Community School in conjunction with the City of Tampa and USF Patel College of Global Sustainability drew more than 4,500 participants in April of 2014.

  • EcoFest 2014, presented by Learning Gate Community School in conjunction with the City of Tampa and USF Patel College of Global Sustainability drew more than 4,500 participants in April of 2014. The event, which celebrated the many businesses, organizations and individuals in the Tampa Bay area dedicated to promoting and practicing sustainability, included live music, demonstrations, info booths and more. Learning Gate students shared projects they worked on throughout the year at sustainable stations. EcoSpeak workshops were available to attendees covering a variety of topics including solar panels, composting, home gardening benefits, clean transportation ideas, backyard aquaponic-biodynamic-permaculture methods, bike share programs, clean eating cooking classes, and ideas for greening the community. The Mayor of Tampa attended the event and proclaimed the day of the event Earth Day Tampa Bay. Check out the LEED project profile of Learning Gate Community School for a closer look at the strategies they implemented at their LEED Platinum school.


  • Moment for the Movement: Annie Donnelly (West Palm Beach, Fla..): Annie recently authored a children’s book titled Willow Watts and the Green School Wish. Her story teaches children about a wide range of sustainability measures, from vegetable gardens, to clean construction, to energy efficient heating and cooling. The book empowers children to take action and make a difference in their communities.

  • Annie Donnelly has clearly created a Moment for the Movement. Annie recently authored a children's book titled Willow Watts and the Green School Wish. Her story teaches children about a wide range of sustainability measures from vegetable gardens, to clean construction, to energy efficient heating and cooling. Children are instantly engaged and mesmerized by the characters and the storyline; the book inspires questions and suggestions about how to green homes and schools. Annie has created a story of critical impact—a story that can mobilize young minds. Her book stands to have a significant impact because it is easily accessible to children and families. The book empowers teachers and parents anywhere to teach children about sustainability. In turn, it empowers children to take action and make a difference in their communities.