CEL is helping to organize the sign-on letter below urging the Department of Education to create a "Green Ribbon Award" program. Modeled loosely on their very successful Blue Ribbon Award, this new comprehensive award would set a comprehensive and high benchmark for green schools and will dramatically raise the visibility of green school concept across the nation.
Please consider adding your organization's name to the attached letter by emailing me ([email protected]) by February 28. We are confident that a strong response from the stakeholder community for this idea will convince the Department to take it on, so it is essentially important to add as many organizations to this letter as possible. With your help, we can add significant momentum to the growing green school movement by engaging the Department of Education in this important concept.
The Honorable Arne Duncan
Secretary of Education
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20202
Dear Secretary Duncan,
On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of educational institutions, organizations, students, industry partners, teachers, and administrators throughout the nation who are committed to helping the U.S. find a pathway towards a more sustainable future, we, the undersigned, call upon the Department of Education to create a Green Ribbon Schools Award Program.
America is seeking to strengthen our national security, economic prosperity, and environmental protection by making the transition to a clean energy economy. To achieve this, we must invest in developing our nation's capacity to innovate and to implement this transition. This in turn requires recognizing the value of a strong educational foundation and knowledge base, especially in relevant sciences, for fostering the innovation and new discoveries vital to our prosperous future.
K-12 green schools provide that foundation. At least seventeen states now have green school programs, a dozen states or more have green school building requirements, a dozen or more national NGOs promote or operate green school programs, and nearly all states are creating environmental literacy plans. We estimate that perhaps 10% of all charter and magnet schools now integrate an environmental theme or focus into their entire school.
Despite these efforts, there is not yet evidence of an overall increase in the environmental literacy of our nation's students. We suggest that this is in part because: 1) the percentage of schools across the nation making such changes remains small, and 2) the piecemeal adoption of a few aspects of environmental management and/or environmental education limits the positive effects of these changes on student learning. What will make a real difference in our nation's environmental literacy is having a national authority set a benchmark and vision that define a true "green school,” in order to bring more coherence to the laudable efforts now underway by individual states and schools.
Launching a comprehensive “Green Ribbon Schools” award program enables the Department of Education to set a high benchmark for green schools and encourage thousands of teachers and administrators to pursue a “Green Ribbon” in a strategic fashion. This benchmark should urge schools to seek to: 1) ensure that 100% of their graduates are environmentally and sustainability literate, and 2) minimize or eliminate their environmental footprint and improve learning conditions, while using their own built and natural environment as a learning laboratory and a model of best practice for their host community. This program would annually recognize and honor those public and private elementary, middle and high schools that demonstrate high achievement in both student learning and eliminating or reducing their environmental footprint and improving learning conditions. In short, a green school should aim to create a healthy, environmentally and socially responsible living and learning environment for all students and staff.
Under existing law, the Secretary of Education may "identify and recognize exemplary schools and programs". The Department of Education has done this quite successfully over the past 30 years with the Blue Ribbon Schools award program, recognizing some 300 schools each year that are either high performing or have improved student achievement to high levels within the Blue Ribbon program guidelines. Blue Ribbon awards have become quite prestigious and have spurred a great deal of school improvement, and we believe that Green Ribbon awards would do the same.
A Green Ribbon Schools award program would be a voluntary, consensus-based, national award. The award would emphasize state-of-the-art strategies in four areas: 1) curriculum, materials, and teacher training; 2) facilities (including energy, water , waste, and indoor environmental quality) and grounds (including school gardens); 3) operations (including food, transportation, building maintenance and purchasing); and 4) community engagement and service learning. The technical aspects of the award criteria would be developed by a team of experts and stakeholders under the auspices of the Department of Education. The program should also involve other federal agencies with an interest in green schools and environmental literacy, such as the Departments of Energy, Labor, and Defense, National Science Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, and others.
The primary benefits of the Green Ribbon Schools Award program include: 1) giving a form of permission to those within public schools who need the validation and endorsement from an authority such as the Department of Education to make change within their schools, and 2) making clear the depth and breadth of change needed to become a truly green school, and 3) helping NGOs and states active in supporting green school development to work towards a common vision of what a green school is while bringing new schools into their support programs.
Each year, the U.S. education system sends over three million graduates out into the workforce, and their impact lasts a lifetime. With a Green Ribbon School award program, we can help ensure that they are armed with the attitudes, skills, and knowledge to participate in and advance a green, clean energy economy and a sustainable, prosperous future for all.
Campaign Steering Committee:
Campaign for Environmental Literacy
Earth Day Network
National Wildlife Federation
United States Green Building Council
Supporting Organizations (national):
American Architectural Foundation
Alliance for Climate Education
Alliance to Save Energy
Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education
Committee on Architecture for Education
Council of Educational Facility Planners International
Council of Environmental Deans and Directors
Green Charter Schools Network
Green Fox Schools
Green Schools Initiative
Green School Network
GREENGUARD Environmental Institute
Healthy Schools Campaign
Hispanic Access Foundation
National Association of Elementary School Principals
National Audubon Society
National Council for Science and the Environment
National Green Schools Network
National Science Teachers Association
North American Association for Environmental Education
Project Learning Tree
U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development
Supporting Organizations (state):
Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education
Kansas Green Schools Program
Oregon Green Schools
Maryland Green Schools (Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education)
South Carolina Green Steps Schools
Texas Green Ribbon Schools
Washington Green Schools
West Virginia Green Schools
Wisconsin Green & Healthy Schools