U.S. Department of Education and 33 States, D.C. and Bureau of Indian Education Officially Launch New Green Ribbon School Program

James Elder, Campaign for Environmental Literacy, 978-526-7768
Sean S. Miller, Earth Day Network, 202-425-2836
Danielle Moodie-Mills, National Wildlife Federation, 202-797-6634
Mallory Shelter, U.S. Green Building Council, 202-742-3806

U.S. Department of Education and 33 States, D.C. and Bureau of Indian Education Officially Launch New Green Ribbon School Program

Washington, D.C. (Dec. 19, 2011) – Earlier this month, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that 33 states, including the District of Columbia and the Bureau of Indian Education, enrolled in the new U.S. Green Ribbon School awards program, gaining huge momentum for the pilot year from school communities and organizations nationwide. Of those enrolled, 17 have a Republican governor, 16 have a Democrat governor and 1 has an Independent governor. In the coming months, state departments of education will nominate K-12 schools that have made outstanding strides in advancing sustainability initiatives, promoting student health and instituting environmental education.

Green Ribbon Schools is a voluntary awards program for K-12 schools that conserve natural and energy resources, reduce costs, maximize learning opportunities, foster wellness and integrate environmental themes across curriculum. In launching the Green Ribbon program, the Department of Education and participating states will celebrate schools that have adopted best practices in recycling; transportation; dining services; energy, water and indoor air quality management; and facilities and grounds maintenance in addition to incorporating outdoor and nature education into their academic programming.

“Earth Day Network is committed to greening all of America’s schools within a generation, and we and our partners are pleased that so many have joined together to make the Green Ribbon Schools program and the greening of our schools a reality,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network. “We look forward to supporting schools that apply for this prestigious award and to announcing the first Green Ribbon winners around Earth Day 2012,” added Rogers.

According to Kevin Coyle, vice president of education and training for the National Wildlife Federation, “A green education in today’s world is becoming a stark necessity. This is well understood in places like China and European nations who see green technology and business systems as defining in the early 21st Century in the same way that the Internet was so transformative over the past 20 years.”

The Green Ribbon School program is modeled on the Department of Education’s popular Blue Ribbon School awards program, launched in 1982 to recognize academic achievement. To date, more than 5,000 schools across the country have received a Blue Ribbon distinction and the award is a source of tremendous pride in their communities. While a Blue Ribbon stands for the pursuit of educational excellence, a Green Ribbon will represent the pursuit of educational excellence through the advancement of sustainable practices, healthful environments and environmental literacy.

Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC, describes the Green Ribbon Schools program as being the “biggest thing to happen to the green schools movement.” Gutter stresses that America’s K-12 schools, no matter their condition or location, “can function as living laboratories to prepare today’s students for the careers of tomorrow.”

“Environmental studies and education are perfect ways to stimulate student curiosity and to help reverse America’s longstanding national decline in science and math education,” said James Elder, head of the Campaign for Environmental Literacy. “Green schools also make sense when looking for ways to keep kids healthy, interested in school and graduating. And, public officials, school boards and principals should know that green schools help save hundreds of millions of precious public dollars in utility bills so these funds can go directly into educating students.”

The U.S. Green Building Council, the National Wildlife Federation, the Campaign for Environmental Literacy, Earth Day Network and other organizations applaud this effort by the U.S. Department of Education and the participating states and see it as an important step toward keeping American K-12 education relevant, vibrant and focused on leadership in a changing world.