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What’s New in Healthy, Green Schools at the U.S. Department of Education

Article / Review by on November 3, 2011 – 6:35 pmNo Comments

What’s New in Healthy, Green Schools at the U.S. Department of Education

“In September, I opened the pilot year of the Green Ribbon Schools award to recognize the highest performing green and healthy schools in the nation. High standards of nutrition, fitness, and outdoor time for both students and staff are among the qualifying criteria for the award.

The award recognizes exemplary achievement in environmental impact, health and education. The standards and resources that the award relates advance ED and Let’s Move! shared aims of fostering health, wellness and productivity; cutting schools’ costs, saving jobs; providing a well-rounded education, increasing STEM skills, and ensuring students’ college and career preparedness. Green Ribbon ties together the The First Lady’s Let’s Move!initiative and The President’s Challenge. The nutrition standards it incorporates include USDA’s schoolgarden promotion, Agriculture in the Classroom, and Farm to School initiative.

As President Obama and I have said, green schools are critical to schools’ fiscal health and our nation’s economy.  Through the American Jobs Act, schools and community colleges would receive $30 billion to modernize antiquated buildings and make green improvements that create new jobs, save schools money, and bring them closer to the standards that Green Ribbon Schools recognition award sets. These standards prepare students to participate in the green economy and strengthen the nation’s energy security and conserve precious natural resources.

And we know from the First Lady’s work that healthy habits, environmental education and green facilities schools are as vital to individual students as they are to their schools and the nation. High standards of nutrition, fitness and facility conditions improve student and staff health, attendance and productivity, and enhance achievement and engagement, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Green schools support our shared objectives of well-rounded education, healthy students and STEM achievement.

At the Department, we want to encourage states and schools to work toward Green Ribbon Schools’ three pillars of reduced environmental impact, improved health and environmental literacy. State education officials can participate by nominating schools to ED. School communities can help out by asking their state education authorities to nominate them and applying according to state procedures.  And everyone should remember to call on the many resources available in attaining the high standards Green Ribbon Schools sets out in environmental impact, health and education. We all have expertise and resources to offer to this important work: Let’s Move!, ED, non-profits, businesses, and federal, state and local health, environmental, energy and safety authorities.

We wish you the best in improving the environmental health, impact and education of your school!”

By Secretary Arne Duncan
U.S. Department of Education

Additional Information:

In the few weeks since the pilot year announcement, 17 states have already communicated to ED plans to nominate schools. ED encourages chief officers or their designees to use the following dates to guide their state selection process:
By November 22th: Notify ED of participation
By March 22nd: Submit nominees to ED‎

Opening of the pilot year with nomination infrastructure: http:/

Permanent Program Pages with resources for states to nominate schools:



Final Plans Announced For Green Ribbon Schools

September 29, 2011

This week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made public the final plans for a new award program that will encourage our nation’s schools and communities to promote healthy and sustainable environments and educate students to become environmentally literate citizens. In this video, Arne talks about the new Green Ribbon Schools competition and urges states to “get started right now in identifying their best candidates” for the award.

Secretary Duncan Encourages States to Take Part in Green Ribbon Schools Program

For several months, the U.S. Department of Education has been developing criteria and selection guidelines for the pilot year of Green Ribbon Schools. During this process, ED heard how facilities upgrades can reduce schools’ environmental impact and costs, improve their and staff productivity, and create jobs. ED listened to arguments about the need for well-rounded, environmental education with strong science and mathematics foundations—efforts that develop students’ robust civics skills and environmental stewardship and enhance students’ career and college preparedness. ED learned that, across the country, achievements vary greatly in the areas to be honored by the Green Ribbon Schools award, and states will require some flexibility as to how they conduct their green schools selection processes.

ED took this input into account in designing the pilot year of the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award. As a result of this broad input, the new program will take advantage of the experience of efforts already underway in communities across the country and rely on a host of existing resources, standards and programs to encourage schools to:

  1. implement energy conservation measures that pave the way for reduced environmental impact, cost savings and job creation;
  2. undertake environmental and behavioral changes in schools that ensure the health, wellness and productivity of students, teachers, and staff; and
  3. promote environmental education that supports students’ strong civic skills, environmental stewardship and workforce preparedness.

The documents made public today reflect months of consultation with a variety of stakeholders and incorporate suggestions received during a public comment period:

The Green Ribbon Schools Criteria explain the program’s purpose, vision, eligibility, requirements and the Department’s authority for creating such an award.

The Instructions for Use of Framework explain use of the following technical assistance document.

The Framework for State Nominating Authorities is a spreadsheet that provides recommended measures by which to evaluate schools and select nominees to ED. It is intended for state nominating authorities’ use and adaptation.

The List of Statutory and Regulatory Requirements summarizes the Federal, state and local requirements with which schools must comply in order to be eligible for the Green Ribbon Schools award. Because the full list of applicable requirements varies by state and locality, each nominating authority will be responsible for determining the compliance of nominated schools with pertinent statutory and regulatory requirements, in consultation with state and local health, environment and safety authorities.

The Nominee Presentation Form is pending approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). While the Department final approval is pending, this version is offered in the interim to provide information for state authorities and communities to help them in their preparations to apply for the Green Ribbon Schools award.

This document contains a tentative pilot year application timeline. After the Nominee Presentation Form receives OMB approval, submission deadlines for the pilot year will be announced.

ED encourages chief officers and their designees to use the following dates to guide their state nomination process:

By November 22nd: Notify ED of participation
By March 22nd: Submit nominees to ED

‎Chiefs offices can contact Andrea Falken ( or 202.205.0708) at the U.S. Department of Education to notify of their participation and ask questions.

As Arne says in his video message, “we are confident that we will have an excellent slate of winners in our first year—great schools that can be examples of the best and most innovative ways to reduce environmental impact, create healthy learning spaces, and teach environmental literacy.” We wish school communities the best in their inaugural Green Ribbon School year efforts!

See our Fact Sheet for a brief overview of the pilot Green Ribbon Schools initiative.


About Green Ribbon Schools

The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools will recognize schools that save energy, reduce costs, feature environmentally sustainable learning spaces, protect health, foster wellness, and offer environmental education to boost academic achievement and community engagement. The recognition award is part of a larger U.S. Department of Education (Department) effort to identify and disseminate knowledge about practices proven to result in improved student engagement, academic achievement, graduation rates, and workforce preparedness, as well as a government-wide aim to increase energy independence and economic security.

As part of its effort, the Department aims to:

  • Facilitate the dissemination of best practices and established metrics regarding energy efficient and cost effective, healthy and environmentally sustainable learning spaces and educational programs, among federal agencies, states, tribes and localities; and
  • Achieve these objectives by encouraging the coordination of efforts by the public (at federal, state and local levels), for-profit, and non-profit sectors and among schools themselves.

Beginning in the 2011-2012 school year, the Department will recognize schools where staff, students, officials and communities have worked together to produce energy efficient, sustainable and healthy school environments and to ensure the sustainability and environmental literacy of graduates.


Green Ribbon Schools

*  The above story is adapted from materials provided by  U.S. Department of Education


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