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U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

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  1. What is the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-Green Ribbon Schools) recognition award?
  2. What is the purpose of the ED-Green Ribbon Schools recognition award?
  3. What are the ED-Green Ribbon Schools Pillars and Elements?
  4. What are the benefits of being selected an ED-Green Ribbon School, District Sustainability Awardee or Postsecondary Sustainability Awardee?
  5. How can all schools benefit from attempting to achieve the ED-Green Ribbon Schools Pillars and Elements?
  6. What is the impact of ED-Green Ribbon Schools on students, schools, communities, and education?
  7. How do I determine whether my school is eligible?
  8. How does my school apply for the award?
  9. How would I know whether my state nominating authority participates in this award process? What can I do if my state authority does not currently participate?
  10. How many schools, school districts, or postsecondary institutions does my state nominate?
  11. How many times can schools, districts and Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) apply for the ED-GRS?
  12. My school is a Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) school; can it be nominated? My school is a Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) school; can it be nominated?
  13. Do private schools, preschools, and charter schools qualify for awards?
  14. Once my state nominating official nominates to ED, what is the review process and timeline for hearing whether we have been selected? How will my school be notified?
  15. Who do I contact about U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools?
  16. Where can I find resources to help my school progress in the three Pillars?
  17. What is the award called, and how should honorees be termed?
  18. When should schools, districts and IHEs begin the application process?
  19. Where can I view examples of past applications?
  20. How does the award vary for school, districts, and postsecondary institutions?
  21. Where can we find the ED-GRS logo, and what are the terms of use?
  22. Please note

1. What is the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-Green Ribbon Schools) recognition award?

The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-Green Ribbon Schools) recognition award is an outreach initiative that helps to promote best practices and resources and multi-agency, multi-sector collaborations at a variety of levels (federal, state, school).

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2. What is the purpose of the ED-Green Ribbon Schools recognition award?

The purpose of the ED-Green Ribbon Schools recognition award is to highlight schools, districts, and Institutions' of Higher Education (IHEs) exemplary practices and achievements in the area of our three Pillars and Elements, thereby encouraging other schools, districts and IHEs to adopt similarly innovative practices.

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3. What are the ED-Green Ribbon Schools Pillars and Elements?

The Pillars and corresponding Elements are broad and inclusive of many of the elements of existing green schools programs in which you may already be participating, although they may be stated slightly differently. They are:

  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 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 coordinated school health, including social and psychological services, 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 such knowledge and skills to address sustainability and environmental issues in their community.

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4. What are the benefits of being selected an ED-Green Ribbon School, District Sustainability Awardee or Postsecondary Sustainability Awardee?

ED-Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees are nationally recognized as some of America's most successful educational institutions in reducing their environmental impact and costs; improving health and wellness; and providing effective sustainability education.

Schools, districts and postsecondary institutions selected may report a renewed sense of pride and accomplishment. They may be sought out as mentors to others schools, districts, or postsecondary institutions; and/or may find greater success raising funds and recruiting students.

Each year, all honorees are invited to Washington, D.C. for a ceremony to celebrate their success, share information, and be honored with a plaque and banner to commemorate their achievement.

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5. How can all schools benefit from attempting to achieve the ED-Green Ribbon Schools Pillars and Elements?

National studies and existing green schools programs have indicated benefits such as cost savings; improved student and staff productivity and health; increased student engagement, enhanced critical thinking skills, civics skills, preparation for green jobs of the future, and reduced behavioral problems.

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6. What is the impact of ED-Green Ribbon Schools on students, schools, communities, and education?

ED-Green Ribbon Schools recognizes a handful of the highest-performing schools and districts in the nation each year. The program then uses these exemplary schools to communicate best practices and highlight critical resources that any school can employ. By communicating best practices and available resources, the recognition award is having a broad impact on students, teachers, and instruction in all schools, not just a handful of annual honorees.

The award is also affecting how government works. As a result of the award, education, natural resource, health, and energy agencies in both state and federal governments are working together like never before to implement nominee selection processes and, in so doing, bringing more resources and expertise to schools.

Finally, the award has affected non-governmental groups that have spearheaded the green schools movement. ED-GRS has provided facilities, health and environmental education-focused non-governmental organizations with a clear, comprehensive definition of green schools, allowing the many different green schools programs across the country to unite behind shared goals.

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7. How do I determine whether my school is eligible?

A good candidate for the award would be using many of the resources and programs listed on our Green Strides Portal.

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8. How does my school apply for the award?

Schools, districts, colleges and universities do not apply directly to ED for the award, but instead to their state education authorities. Candidates must contact their state departments of education (or equivalent Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) or Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) jurisdictions) or state higher education authorities for information on selection in each state. State participation in the award is voluntary, and not all state education authorities choose to nominate schools, districts, or colleges and universities. Hearing from interested schools may be helpful to state authorities in determining whether to participate.

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9. How would I know whether my state nominating authority participates in this award process? What can I do if my state authority does not currently participate?

Participating state authorities are listed at this link. Those who do not participate by nominating schools may benefit from hearing from schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions that wish to be nominated. If state authorities decline to participate by nominating schools, no schools, districts or postsecondary institutions in that state are eligible for the award.

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10. How many schools, school districts, or postsecondary institutions does my state nominate?

Each state is permitted as many as five pre-K-12 school or district nominations, and one college or university.

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11. How many times can schools, districts and Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) apply for the ED-GRS?

Each institution is eligible only once. The title is accorded for one year only, and is non-renewable.

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12. My school is a Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) school; can it be nominated? My school is a Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) school; can it be nominated?

Yes. Both DoDEA and BIE schools are eligible for the award.

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13. Do private schools, preschools, and charter schools qualify for awards?

Yes. Private schools, preschools, and charter schools are also nominated for the award through their state education agency.

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14. Once my state nominating official nominates to ED, what is the review process and timeline for hearing whether we have been selected? How will my school be notified?

Once schools, districts, and IHEs are selected by nominating authorities and nominated, ED conducts final review to ensure that schools, districts, and IHEs: 1) are high performing in all three Pillars and every Element; 2) comply with all applicable federal civil rights, student aid and federal, state, local, and tribal health, safety and environmental statutory and regulatory requirements; 3) meet high college- and career-ready academic standards; and 4) in the case of IHEs, document reduced college costs, increased completion rates, higher rates of employment, and robust civic skills among graduates. This federal review will determine the national honorees, which will be announced annually on Earth Day, April 22nd. Honorees will be notified the morning of the announcement.

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15. Who do I contact about U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools?

If you have questions about the program, or if you believe your school qualifies and would like to request that your state or alternative authority consider your school for nomination, you can find contact information on the websites below.

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16. Where can I find resources to help my school progress in the three Pillars?

The Green Strides Webinar Series and resources page provide all schools, districts, and IHEs free information on the tools that help them move toward the Pillars of the recognition award. The award is not tied to any one program or standard, but instead encourages all schools, districts, and IHEs to use any or all of the many helpful resources available. You also may wish to consult our blog, newsletter, and social media platforms.

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17. What is the award called, and how should honorees be termed?

ED’s award is called “U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools” and has “District Sustainability Award” and "Postsecondary Sustainability Award" categories. “Green Ribbon Schools” without the “U.S. Department of Education” is not ED’s award, but instead is a separate program overseen by another organization. A selected school is a “[Year] U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School.” A selected district is a “[Year] U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Awardee.” There is no “National” or “Program” in the title.

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18. When should schools, districts and IHEs begin the application process?

Most honorees spend years working on their sustainability efforts by using the many resources and programs listed here. Your state application deadlines will vary, but it generally is helpful to get started as early as possible, usually in the summer or early fall.

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19. Where can I view examples of past applications?

All past honorees' submissions are posted at this link. Please note that ED has a submission page limit of 20 pages. In many cases state authorities have condensed longer state applications and submitted summaries to ED.

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20. How does the award vary for school, districts, and postsecondary institutions?

The award is structured very similarly, with ED asking state authorities to document how their nominees are performing highly in every Pillar and Element of the award, using as many standards, programs, and other pre-existing measures as possible.

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21. Where can we find the ED-GRS logo, and what are the terms of use?

The ED-Green Ribbon Schools logo is available at this link. ED-Green Ribbon Schools awardees are permitted to display their status using the ED-GRS logo and the year in which they received the award. They may not at any time display the logo or advertise their ED-GRS status without using the year in which the award was received. The logo is released only to the public in jpeg form, not in editable formats.

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22. Please note

ED’s award is called “U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools” and has “District Sustainability Award” and "Postsecondary Sustainability Award" categories. “Green Ribbon Schools” without the “U.S. Department of Education” is not ED’s award, but instead is a separate program overseen by another organization.

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Last Modified: 11/28/2014