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New federal program promotes ‘green’ school policies

May 17, 2011

New federal program promotes ‘green’ school policies

‘Green Ribbon Schools’ award will honor schools that create healthy and sustainable learning environments
By Laura Devaney, Managing Editor


A new federal program will recognize schools that are creating healthy and sustainable learning environments.

As the “green” movement sweeps across the nation, prompting citizens to buy organic produce and reduce their energy consumption, schools are following suit with lesson plans that teach students how to value environmental resources and with practices that save energy—and money. Now, a new federal program will honor and encourage these efforts.

The U.S. Education Department (ED) created the Green Ribbon Schools program to recognize schools that are creating healthy and sustainable learning environments and teaching environmental literacy. The new awards program will receive support from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“Preparing our children to be good environmental citizens is some of the most important work any of us can do,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said at an event announcing the new program. “It’s work that will serve future generations and quite literally sustain our world.”

The program will be finalized this fall, and applications will be made available at that time. ED currently is accepting comments and suggestions about the program. Those interested can eMail [6] or can leave their comments online at the Green Ribbon Schools blog posting [7].  The first winners are expected to be announced in 2012.

One poster identified as “Fred” asked that the definition of the word “green” be as clear as possible, so that all schools can participate regardless of building age.

“A 1950s school which is operated as efficiently as possible with the technology that is installed, is kept clean and healthy using green cleaning techniques, where there are good IAQ & IPM programs, etc., should be able to compete with a 2011 high-performance school, because there are more older school buildings [than] new ones,” the poster wrote.

The blog posting offers readers a document full of green school resources that focus on environmental sustainability, healthy school environments, and energy- and cost-efficient schools.

“Each day, we ask students across the nation to demonstrate excellence, integrity, and leadership in the classroom, and in return, the federal government must do the same,” said Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House CEQ. “The Green Ribbon Schools program will recognize healthy learning spaces that promote environmental literacy and prepare our leaders of tomorrow to win a clean energy future.”

The Green Ribbon Schools program reflects President Obama’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing energy efficiency, and preparing today’s students for jobs in fields that provide clean energy solutions.

“The schools taking part in this initiative will help kids connect what they’re learning in science class with the world around them, allowing them to envision solutions to tomorrow’s challenges while living healthier lives today,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “By making green living a part of everyday learning, Green Ribbon Schools will prepare our children to win the future by leading our global green energy economy.”

The Green Ribbon Schools program will be modeled after ED’s Blue Ribbon Schools Program, which annually honors public and private schools that are either high performing or have improved student achievement to high levels.

In recent years, ed-tech manufacturers have increased production of so-called “green technologies,” touting the energy-saving abilities of mobile devices [12] such as laptops and netbooks, as well as introducing printers that use less ink or print on both sides of paper. Many districts have virtualized their server operations to save on heating and cooling costs.

The Consortium for School Networking’s Green Computing Initiative [13], launched a few years ago, provides tools to help school technology [14] leaders reduce their school’s or district’s carbon footprint by conserving energy and reducing waste—while at the same time saving money.

The initiative’s website features an energy-use calculator that allows school technology leaders to estimate their kilowatt-hour use and related costs for current and planned computing and network infrastructure.

CoSN also offers a Green Computing Certification Program [15]. The program recognizes school and district leaders who are taking the lead in establishing comprehensive green computing policies and following them up with targeted actions that reduce energy consumption, greenhouses gases, waste, and toxic pollutants.

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