Celebrate being green with the Green Ribbon Schools award program (USGBC Colorado)

Published on: 
11 Oct 2016
Anna Young

$1.2 billion in energy savings, $149.5 million in water savings, $715.2 million in maintenance savings, and $54.2 million in waste savings are all of the estimated benefits that LEED-certified buildings will experience between 2015 and 2018. Green buildings have a variety of real and tangible impacts on their communities and environments—and not just in the form of financial savings.

Schools across the country, including LEED-certified schools, have reported improvements in the overall learning experiences for students once they "went green." Going green in education is celebrated across the country through the nationally recognized U.S. Department of Education (ED) Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) award program.

The application for the 2017 cycle of Green Ribbon Schools has been released and is due to the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) by Dec. 1, 2016. After CDE’s review committee process concludes and site visits are conducted, nominees are forwarded to ED. Then, ED will select national honorees and announce the recipients on or around Earth Day 2017.

The ED-GRS award program honors America’s public and private elementary, middle and high schools, as well as school districts, for their efforts toward using their green buildings as teaching tools, improving student health and achievement and reducing their environmental impact. The award honors schools and districts that take a comprehensive approach to sustainability, health and wellness and environmental education that is measured by three “pillars” that set a standard of excellence for all schools.

There are a number of benefits to being selected as an honoree for this prestigious national award. A representative from Colorado State University, one of the 2015 honorees, exclaimed, “The recognition has been great, but the excitement it has created is even better—we all want to do better, to continue to learn and grow and improve.”

A representative of another 2015 honoree, Red Hawk Elementary, expressed a similar sentiment: “Having the Green Ribbon award really is just another feather in the cap, so to speak, in terms of another good talking point that really speaks to not one or two programs, but how we really look at using our environment and resources as a system.”

Numerous honorees across the country have increased their energy cost savings, improved student and staff health and productivity, and increased student engagement and achievement, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

In addition to experiencing these benefits, honorees can play a direct role in inspiring the next generation of green leaders. The Center for Green Schools™ at USGBC® recently reported that as many as 80 percent of young professionals would like to work in a green job. The ED-GRS award program celebrates schools, school districts, colleges and universities that encourage environmental and sustainability education and career pathways.

Interested applicants also have access to technical assistance from CDE and USGBC. Potential participants can stream a previously recorded webinar to familiarize themselves with the application and the award requirements. CDE has partnered with USBGC to offer the Green TIES mentorship program. The Green TIES program offers schools and districts the opportunity to connect directly with experts in green buildings, energy use, sustainability efforts and environmental education. These experts lend their expertise to help their mentees prepare comprehensive and competitive applications for the 2017 cycle. Additionally, the Green TIES program offers technical assistance to help applicants prepare the logistics for their application.

Learn more about the program

Do you know any schools that have a green building and successful green projects? Share this and encourage them to apply to become a 2017 Green Ribbon School.

Safia Malin, Colorado Department of Education Intern, contributed to this article.