ED is committed to promoting equitable access to healthy, safe, sustainable, 21st century learning environments and environmental sustainability learning. Research has demonstrated that modern, well-maintained facilities with healthy indoor environments yield better student performance and health, higher teacher retention, and reduced absenteeism. They also save school districts money. School infrastructure is an essential element of equitable access to learning resources and high-quality learning environments. Similarly, learning and health outcomes improve with access to hands-on, active, outdoors, real-world, problem-, project-, and place-based environmental sustainability education that connects students to STEM and green career pathways. ED promotes school infrastructure and sustainability through multiple communications and outreach tools designed to share best practices and connect schools with partnerships and resources.
ED Infrastructure and Sustainability promotes equitable access to healthy, safe, sustainable, 21st century school facilities, and environmental sustainability education.
All schools achieve excellence and equity in school environments through healthy, safe, sustainable facilities and grounds and hands-on, real-world environmental sustainability learning.
- Recognize and highlight the success of schools, districts, postsecondary institutions, and early learning centers through the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools recognition award.
- Disseminate school infrastructure and sustainability resources, funds, and practices, particularly as they advance educational and health outcomes, and equity.
- Serve as a liaison between school stakeholders, federal offices, states, and school districts to share resources, best practices, and develop partnerships for healthy, safe, sustainable, 21st century school facilities and environmental sustainability education.
- Increase the national awareness of the impacts school infrastructure and sustainability can have on student health, learning outcomes, teacher retention, and district finances.
- Provide ED with internal and external subject matter expertise and a point of contact on matters related to school infrastructure and sustainability, working to raise the profile of these issues at the Department and across the nation.
- Complete and promote required federal Environmental and Sustainability reporting.
School Infrastructure and Sustainability Commitments
The U.S. Department of Education invites national, regional, and local non-profits, foundations, businesses, and community-based organizations to share your bold commitment(s) to advance school sustainability, encompassing infrastructure, health, environmental sustainability education, climate, and environmental justice in America. By May 31st complete the online form to share how your organization or entity will advance at least one of these Infrastructure and Sustainability priorities:
- Priority #1: Ensure equitable access to healthy, safe, sustainable, 21st century physical learning environments.
- Priority #2: Develop, maintain, and provide environmental sustainability learning, such as climate literacy, green workforce development, and outdoor learning.
- Priority #3: Build capacity for infrastructure, sustainability, environmental justice, and climate mitigation and adaptation in schools.
Commitment Submission Guidelines
We encourage you to address at least one of the following parameters in your commitment submission:
- Environmental Justice: How does your commitment account for and take actions to promote environmental justice, so that all students have equitable access to safe, healthy, sustainable, and modern school environments and engaging environmental sustainability education?
- Health: How does this work ensure access to sustainable school buildings and grounds that are healthy environments for learning?
- Climate Action: How does this effort help education leaders understand their role and act on climate issues, including mitigation, adaptation, and climate education?
- Capacity Building: How does this work build school district and state education agency capacity to continuously improve school environments and environmental sustainability learning?
- Data Collection and Standardization: How will your commitment advance data collection and standardization on infrastructure and sustainability, with a view toward informed and equitable policymaking?
- Transparency and Goal-Setting: How do you plan to achieve the outcomes? What is the unit of change, and why do you think your approach will work?
U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools
U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) is a public engagement initiative for school sustainability that is structured as a federal recognition award. By highlighting schools, districts, postsecondary institutions, and early learning centers’ cost-saving, health promoting, and performance-enhancing sustainability practices, ED-GRS celebrates these institutions and brings more attention to their work.
Recipients of the award are invited to a ceremony in Washington, D.C. where they receive a plaque; are the subject of media attention; and have their efforts celebrated. Other schools, in turn, learn from their practices. In addition to communicating school sustainability practices, the award uses a small number of honorees each year to share resources that all schools can employ through its Green Strides School Sustainability Resource Hub.
The ED-GRS recognition award is not a certification or benchmarking program, although nominees may use an array of other programs to demonstrate their progress toward the award’s three Pillars. Instead, it is a one-time recognition of an institution’s progress in the award’s three sustainability focused pillars. For this reason, each early learning center, school, district, or postsecondary institution is only eligible to receive the award once and the award is accorded in one year only. The ED-GRS award does not convey federal funding to states, districts, schools, or IHEs.
Green Strides School Sustainability Resource Hub
The Green Strides School Sustainability Resource Hub is a website that is available for schools to access free resources on healthy, safe, sustainable, 21st learning environments and environmental sustainability education. Resources and webinars on the website encompass the three Pillars of the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) recognition award.
ED Sustainability and Infrastructure Related Programs
While ED has not been authorized by Congress to administer grant programs that are exclusively focused on school sustainability, there are a few ED grant programs and strategies that may be used to help support schools' work to reduce environmental impact and costs; improve health and wellness; and provide effective environmental education. These include:
Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, directs agencies to update their Climate Adaptation Plans. The Department's Climate Adaptation Plan looks at every available tool ED has at its disposal to prioritize equitable access to healthy, safe, sustainable, 21st-century learning environments and sustainability learning that equips students to face the challenges of the future.
- 2021 Climate Adaptation Plan PDF (386K)
The goal of Executive Order 13834, Efficient Federal Operations, requires each federal agency to prepare a Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan.
- 2020 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan PDF (315K)
Justice40 was created to spreadhead the goals of Executive Order 14008 from which 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution. This whole-of-government approach commits the Federal Government to environmental justice investments. The U.S. Department of Education does not have programs that are covered by the Justice40 Initiative; however, the scorecards provide an overview of other environmental justice efforts.
ED Infrastructure and Sustainability News
ED Infrastructure and Sustainability News helps school stakeholders stay current on the latest nationally-available resources, events, and happenings on school infrastructure and sustainability. ED-GRS honoree summaries are featured in the newsletter to share stories of success and promote school sustainability achievements across the country. Subscribe to receive the newsletter and consult the past newsletter archive.
For general inquiries contact:
Andrea Suarez Falken
Special Advisor for Infrastructure and Sustainability
U.S. Department of Education
For information and lead state contacts for the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools visit the program Contacts Page. Note: Schools, districts, postsecondary institutions, and early learning centers do not apply to ED for this award, but instead apply to their state education authorities. Candidates, including non-public, early learning, and charter schools, should contact their state departments of education or state higher education authorities for information on selection in each state.