Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced the recipients of the 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS), an awards program that acknowledges a deep commitment to sustainable practices among the nation’s leading schools, districts and institutions of higher education.
A total of 63 honorees—including 45 schools, nine post-secondary institutions and nine school districts—received the prestigious award for their demonstrated leadership across three pillars: 1) reduced environmental impact and costs, 2) improved health and wellness and 3) effective environmental and sustainability education. Now in its sixth year, the program has honored 340 schools, 56 districts and 34 postsecondary institutions.
As part of this significant recognition program within the green schools movement, recipients of this year’s award model best practices for educating and inspiring the next generation of 21st century citizens. Showing the breadth of the green schools movement, 44 percent of this year’s awardees serve under-resourced communities, and 14 percent are located in rural areas. Charter, non-public and magnet schools are included, as well as career, technical and community colleges.
Each participating state in this voluntary program is allowed to nominate up to four schools and one district that demonstrate a comprehensive approach to sustainability. This year’s pool of candidates were nominated and reviewed by 29 state education authority implementation teams, including 28 states and the Department of Defense Education Activity.
The green schools movement has grown broader and deeper since 2011, when key advocates, including USGBC’s Center for Green Schools, steered some 80 national and state-based nonprofits to request that the U.S. Department of Education honor schools for their sustainability efforts and contributions. During the development of ED-GRS, USGBC advocated to ensure that the criteria provided an accessible pathway for all schools to strive toward the three pillars, so that large urban schools, small rural schools and every school population in between could have a fair chance at recognition.
Honorees both past and present prove that any school, district or post-secondary institution can take steps to improve the sustainability, health and safety of school facilities; ensure nutrition and fitness practices for a lifetime of wellness and productivity; and engage students in authentic, real-world learning that prepares them to lead a sustainable future.
USGBC commends the winning schools for their success, as well as the U.S. Department of Education for its innovative program that, without spending any new taxpayer money, has continued to provide a crucial focal point in the movement for healthy, high-performing schools.