Feature image photo credit: U.S. Department of Education.
The 2021 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) awardees were honored on Sept. 28 at an official award ceremony by the Department of Education and at a reception hosted by the Center for Green Schools at USGBC. Both events took place at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Building, where legislators were invited to celebrate their constituents’ accomplishments in person.
ED-GRS awards K–12 schools, districts and institutions of higher educations (IHEs) that demonstrate excellence in all three pillars of a green school: reducing environmental impact and costs; improving the health and wellness of schools, students and staff; and providing effective environmental and sustainability education. This year’s cohort, the 10th in the award’s history, includes 27 schools, three child care centers, five districts, and five IHEs, from 19 states and the District of Columbia. Additionally, more than 80% of this year’s school honorees serve disadvantaged communities.
At the official awards ceremony, speakers included Brenda Mallory, the 12th chair of the Council on Environmental Quality for President Biden; Cindy Martin, the Deputy Secretary of Education, and the department’s designated senior leadership official for climate, environment and sustainability matters; Rosemary Enobakhare, the associate administrator for public engagement and environmental education at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Jim Elder, director of the Campaign for Environmental Literacy; and Anisa Heming, director for the Center for Green Schools. Each addressed the honorees and praised their accomplishments in providing healthy, sustainable learning environments.
“Moving the operational and social system of a school, school district or institute of higher education can be complex—it is much easier to do what has always been done, and you are pushing for something different," Anisa Heming said at the event. "You are pushing for schools where our young people and our communities can see the possibilities of a world that is healthy for people and the natural environment, and that, in fact, the relationship between the two is essential for our survival,” said Heming.
At the reception, members of Congress and their staff came to congratulate their districts’ award recipients and express appreciation for their commitment to sustainability, including Rep. David Cicilline, R-R.I.; Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala.; and senior staff of Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.
Since the award’s inception, the Department of Education has awarded 489 schools, 92 districts and 54 IHEs. The ED-GRS award was created in 2011 at the encouragement of advocates, including the Center for Green Schools, to honor schools for their sustainability initiatives. USGBC commends the Department of Education’s commitment to honoring these initiatives and supporting the green schools movement.