Resources for Going Green

By Andrea Suarez Falken

Launched in 2011, the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools recognition award is designed to honor public and private elementary, middle, and high schools and districts for their excellence in health, facilities, and environment achievements. The award spotlights winners’ best practices and their resources, making this information available to all schools and districts.

Nonprofit groups at both local and national levels played a critical role in the development of the award, advising the Education Department and state education agencies. These groups requested the formation of the awards through a compelling 80-organization sign-on letter.

Similarly, federal agencies work together, collaborating with the department to develop criteria, review nominations, and plan the recognition ceremony. These agencies include the Environmental Protection Agency, the departments of Energy, Agriculture, and the Interior, and the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, to name just a few.

In states, ED-Green Ribbon Schools implementation teams also have taken collaboration to new heights for the benefit of students. Typical state implementation teams are made up of facilities, health, and science offices; state health and natural resource agencies; and local volunteers.

The award has brought us all together to look at the intersections of health, facilities, and environment in new ways. The Education Department provided guidance as to how state education agencies might evaluate schools, but ultimately, states had flexibility in their selection processes. They were required to document schools’ comprehensive achievement in the three pillars of the award -- reduced environmental impact and costs, improved health and wellness, and effective environmental and sustainability education.

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