The Education Dept. (DoEd) names the winners of the 2016 Green Ribbon Schools competition, recognizing innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education.
The DoEd named 47 schools, 15 districts and 11 postsecondary institutions as examples of being green and sustainable.
The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 25 states, Washington, D.C., and the Department of Defense Education Activity. The honorees include 41 public schools and six private schools. The schools serve various grade levels, including 27 elementary, 18 middle, and 14 high schools, with several schools having various K-12 configurations; 51% of the 2016 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body. The postsecondary honorees include two community colleges and one work-college.
“The healthiest, most inspiring school facilities can and should be another tool to level the playing field, particularly for underserved students,” said Education Secy. John King. “These honorees are 21st century learning environments that encourage every student and teacher to perform at his or her best.”
The projects are wide and varied.
Bay Farm School, Alameda, CA, is a good example. What began as a program to increase recycling and build a school garden has become a school culture. Bay Farm School integrates sustainability and outdoor learning into the curriculum, focusing on health and wellness, reducing waste, and engaging students and parents as part of the solution. Every student in kindergarten through fifth grade receives dedicated garden instruction. All students regularly work, learn outdoors, and eat food they grow, DoEd said.
Further, Bay Farm was chosen to participate in the district’s cool roofs program. The entire school had its roof replaced with cool metal roofing, reducing heating and cooling use by approximately 20%, while also saving costs. A 2016 lighting retrofit funded by California’s Proposition 39 will replace florescent lights with LED lighting in the school auditorium and around the site.
Another winner is the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest school district in the nation, serving an extremely diverse population of more than 650,000 students, 76$ of whom are eligible for free and reduced price lunch.
LAUSD has undertaken a sustainability initiative aimed at reducing environmental impact and costs, including high performance design and construction on all new schools and modernization projects. This includes energy audit and energy- and water-efficiency retrofits; use of recycled water; installation of 21 megawatts of solar capacity; innovative technology such as ground source heat pumps; low-impact development stormwater management to help recharge the city’s aquifers; recycling, reuse, salvage, barter, and composting programs.
More than 375 schools have one or more onsite gardens maintained by students, staff, and community partners. The district participates in California Thursdays and other farm to school programs; more than 70% of food comes from local growers in California, The district has more than 50 environmentally-themed magnet schools and academies. Fifty-one high schools offer advanced placement (AP) Environmental Science.
Lastly, the district’s sustainability website (“Learning Green”) and newsletter distribute information on sustainability-related activities and resources. An informal network of school-based sustainability teacher-liaisons act as conduits for information on sustainability programs and initiatives from the district headquarters to the schools, DoEd said.