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.
The U.S. Department of Education Office of Elementary and Secondary Education manages two grant programs focused on ensuring that school facilities and grounds provide safe, healthy, sustainable, and equitable learning environments: the Supporting America’s School Infrastructure grant and the National Center on School Infrastructure grant.
- The Supporting America’s School Infrastructure grant awards approximately $40 million to eligible state entities to increase the capacity of the state to support high-need school districts to improve school facilities.
- The National Center on School Infrastructure grant awards approximately $2 million to an eligible organization to establish a national center on school infrastructure that will serve as both a clearinghouse of resources and provide technical assistance to improve public school facilities.
Find more information on the School Infrastructure Program grants here.
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.
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 education, climate, and environmental justice in America. 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.
We encourage you to address at least one of the following parameters in your commitment submission: Environmental Justice, Health, Climate Action, Capacity Building, Data Collection and Standardization, and Transparency.
Exemplary National Commitments*
- Trane Technologies, as part of the company’s 2030 Sustainability Commitments, is investing $100 million and 500,000 employee volunteer hours to help diverse students have the resources and inspiration to create a more sustainable future.
- Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council will build a new knowledge-sharing and professional learning network for school capital projects leaders in over 50 school districts within two years to increase the ability for school teams to design and build sustainable schools. They will also work with school districts around the country to hire sustainability staff, with a goal of sustainability positions in at least 75 of the largest 100 school districts.
- National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF)and its partners plan to invest in K-12 environmental education and literacy through annual Greening STEM grants nationwide.
- World Resources Institute pledges to support an equitable transition to electric school buses through technical assistance to school districts; the development of an Electric School Bus Ambassador program; and application support for federal funding opportunities.
- EcoRise will provide Eco-Audit Grants to fund sustainability projects in schools across the U.S. which engage students in learning about sustainable themes, collecting and analyzing data, and designing solutions based on their community’s needs. EcoRise will also offer diverse student leaders opportunities for paid school-year and summer green career internships; connect green professional mentors to classrooms and students; and provide green career curriculum and professional development to educators.
- Compass Education will connect U.S. educators to its global network of systems change makers to support, mentor, and facilitate transformational change in education. It will also create and disseminate free resources for K-12 classrooms to promote systems thinking, collaborative learning, and sustainability education.
- UndauntedK12 will partner with policy makers, agency leaders, advocates, and local leaders to develop model policies and programs to realize systemic changes in advancing healthy, resilient, decarbonized schools in at least two states, while creating tools and resources that support local education leaders to act on climate throughout the nation.
- Children & Nature Network will expand its network of over 180 co-signing leaders and partners in the field to update the Green Schoolyards Action Agenda and the shared vision that “all U.S. communities offer access to green schoolyards by 2050 to enhance children’s healthy development, community wellbeing and positive environmental impacts.”
- This Is Planet Ed at the Aspen Institute will increase awareness about opportunities for K-12 schools to leverage funding to reduce their carbon footprint, adapt to the impacts of climate change, support teaching and learning about climate solutions, and foster healthy and safe learning environments for all students.
- Green Schools National Network will support capacity building related to its GreenPrint for Healthy, Equitable, and Safe Schools.
- Start: Empowerment will partner with K-12 schools in frontline communities to ensure young people have access to the knowledge, skills, and resources to create change in their community.
- The Green Schools Alliance will work collaboratively with schools to provide the tools and resources they need to make measurable progress towards whole school sustainability.
- Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association, Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers, and National Energy Management Institute will assist schools in improving their existing HVAC infrastructure and build capacity for new HVAC infrastructure while improving energy efficiency, sustainability, and climate mitigation and adaptation in schools.
- Generation180 will provide resources to support K-12 schools in disadvantaged communities in accessing federal funds and incentives for clean energy, resilience, and clean transportation.
- SSC Services for Education will meet the Cleaning Industry Management Standard Green Building Certification as part of its standard custodial program offering by 2025.
Exemplary Regional Commitments*
- Green Building Alliance will unite and lead a network of like-minded facility professionals and school leaders in Western Pennsylvania school districts on their journey to reduce carbon emissions by 50-65% by 2030. This will include a partnership with every school district in the 11 counties of Western Pennsylvania to offer sustainability training to teach and inspire facility professionals, find grants, strategize with school professionals, and support educators and as they advocate for healthier buildings.
- California Climate Ready Schools Coalition will work with California state policy makers to develop and implement a policy framework that will ensure all 11,000 school buildings in the state are healthy, decarbonized, and climate-resilient.
- Nature's Classroom will offer affordable outdoor education, with curricula aligned to Massachusetts standards.
- Rhode Island Environmental Education Association plans to promote and support environmental, sustainability, and climate education in 20% of Rhode Island schools by providing teacher professional development over 2023-2024 academic year. It will also foster partnerships between at least six high schools and six community based organizations to develop and implement environmental, sustainability, and climate education for at least 150 students.
- Ten Strands will offer, by spring 2025, thirteen open education K–12 climate and environmental justice curriculum units that lead students to take action in their communities.
- Climate Generation will support Minnesota schools in becoming living laboratories — places that bring engineering and education together using their own environment and infrastructure.
Exemplary Local Commitments*
- Climate Parents of Prince George's County will advocate for the implementation of the Prince George's County Public Schools (MD) Climate Change Action Plan, provide community support for PGCPS to achieve the goals in the plan, and share knowledge and best practices with other community-based organizations that are striving to achieve similar actions.
- Bellingham Public Schools (WA) will, by 2028, develop a process to reduce environmental impacts and improve health and resiliency by balancing human, environmental, and economic priorities continually and systematically.
- Miami-Dade County Council Parent Teacher Student Association (FL) will advance the 100% clean energy by 2030 commitment in Miami-Dade County Public schools. It will assist other parent, teacher, and student organizations across Florida to lobby for clean energy in their school districts.
- 15 Minute Field Trips will mentor youth to create and expand green infrastructure in their neighborhoods and increase after-school environmental programming in South Providence, RI.
- Alliance for a Better Community (CA) willdevelop curriculum to develop and support a cohort of environmental health parent community leaders in Los Angeles.
*Commitments have been edited for brevity.
Green Strides Tour
Building upon the outreach and recognition of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS), the Department, since 2013, has partnered with states to conduct a nearly annual tour of ED-GRS honorees. The Green Strides Tour is designed to generate press, public awareness, and celebration of the ED-GRS honorees by highlighting their innovative whole school sustainability practices. Participants include federal and state officials, local policymakers, and other community partners. The events are generally open to the press and public by registration.
Previous Green Strides Tours
Since 2013, the Green Strides Tour has spotlighted more than 200 school sites in over 20 states, including:
2023: “Schools for Climate Solutions” in Northern and Central California
2021: “Green Strides for All: Sustainable Schools to Advance Equity” in North Carolina
2019: “Whole Child, Whole School Sustainability” in Washington
2018: “Living School Grounds” in Missouri
2017: “Taking Learning Outside” in Georgia
2016: “Real World Learning” in Pennsylvania
2014: “Healthy Schools, High-Achieving Students,” visiting Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Maryland, Kentucky, and West Virginia
2013: “Education Built to Last,” visiting Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, California, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, and Alabama
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. Outside resources are not endorsed by the Department.
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.