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U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

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NOTE: Schools apply to state departments of education for states' nomination to USED and cannot apply directly to USED for the award.

Please inquire with your state authority if you are interested in applying for its nomination.

The Secretary of Education invites Chief State School Officers (CSSOs), including chiefs of D.C. and Puerto Rico, as well as the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) ("the Authorities") to nominate schools that they have evaluated as meeting the criteria for recognition. The authorities must confirm that the schools meet the minimum requirements established by the ED under the Program Requirements section of this document. They must describe any other criteria used to select the schools as nominees. The authorities may wish to develop or refine existing green school recognition programs, and/or run an award within their jurisdictions in order to present nominees to the Department, but are not required to select their nominees by a competition.

Each authority is permitted as many as four nominations. If a state or comparable authority wishes to nominate more than one public school, at least one must be a school with at least 40 percent of their students from a disadvantaged background. If an authority wishes to nominate a fourth school, it must be a private school. No more than one of the four may be a private school. A school may be selected as honoree only once every three years. Authorities are encouraged to take a school’s academic achievement, achievement gaps and diversity into account when selecting school honorees.

District Sustainability Award: In addition to their school nominations, each authority may recommend one multi-school serving district for its exemplary comprehensive high achievement in all three Pillars. Nominating authorities should document how the district nominee is comprehensively high performing in all Pillars and Elements. Authorities may adapt the Framework [MS Excel, 98K], sample application [MS Word, 108K] or committee review used to select individual schools in their evaluation of districts.

Program Requirements

State education authorities must submit evaluation of nominees in the Pillars and Elements, listed below. They are encouraged to use the practices suggested in the Framework for Evaluation of Schools (Framework). Nominating authorities, district officials and principals must certify compliance with all applicable civil rights, health, environment and safety statutory and regulatory requirements.

Nominating Authorities may wish to engage the collaboration of state health, environmental, and safety authorities; non-profit experts in these areas; and federal agency field offices with appropriate technical expertise. In addition to providing valuable subject matter expertise, these partners can make the task of selecting nominees to the Department less cumbersome.

Once schools are selected by Nominating Authorities and presented, ED, assisted by the Environmental Protection Agency, will conduct final review to ensure that schools: 1) meet all of the eligibility requirements; 2) comply with all applicable federal civil rights and federal, state, local and tribal health, environment and safety statutory and regulatory requirements; and 3) meet high college- and career-ready academic standards.

This federal review will select the honorees. Authorities must, at a minimum, include documentation of high performance in all Pillars and Elements, as well as the health, safety, and environmental statutory and regulatory compliance of nominated schools. They are encouraged, but not required, to conduct on-site verification of compliance matters as well.

Review Criteria Used by the Authorities to Select Nominees

Each authority is invited to nominate schools that they assess to be the highest performing in their jurisdiction, based on the authorities' evaluation of schools achievement in the Pillars and Elements. Nominees demonstrating comprehensive exemplary achievement in all Pillars and every Element will be ranked highest. Nominating Authorities are encouraged to use the Framework of standards and the sample application template provided by the Department to assist them in evaluating nominees. However, these sample documents are not required and may be adapted by Nominating Authorities.

Green Ribbon Schools Pillars and Elements
  1. Reduced Environmental Impact and Costs

    • Reduced or eliminated greenhouse gas emissions, using an energy audit or emissions inventory and reduction plan, cost-effective energy efficiency improvements, conservation measures, and/or and on-site renewable energy and/or purchase of green power;
    • Improved water quality, efficiency, and conservation;
    • Reduced solid and hazardous waste production through increased recycling, reduced consumption, and improved management, reduction, or elimination of hazardous waste; and
    • Expanded use of alternative transportation, through active promotion of locally-available, energy-efficient options and implementation of alternative transportation supportive projects and policies.

  2. Improved Health and Wellness

    • An integrated school environmental health program based on an operations and facility-wide environmental management system that considers student, visitor and staff health and safety in all practices related to design, construction, renovation, operations, and maintenance of schools and grounds; and
    • High standards of nutrition, fitness, and quantity of quality outdoor time for both students and staff.

  3. Effective Environmental and Sustainability Education

    • Interdisciplinary learning about the key relationships between dynamic environmental, energy and human systems;
    • Use of the environment and sustainability to develop STEM content knowledge and thinking skills to prepare graduates for the 21st century technology-driven economy; and
    • Development of civic engagement knowledge and skills, and students' application of these to address sustainability and environmental issues in their community.

Please note:
U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools is a federal recognition award and should not be confused with any green schools program conducted by non-governmental entities.

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Last Modified: 01/30/2013