Five NAIS member schools were among 73 schools, districts, and colleges to be named a 2016 Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.
The program is designed to inspire schools, districts, and institutions of higher education to strive for 21st century excellence by highlighting promising practices and resources that all can employ. Specifically, the award recognizes educational institutions that:
- Reduce environmental impact and costs.
- Improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff.
- Provide environmental education, which teaches many disciplines, and is especially good at effectively incorporating STEM, civic skills, and green career pathways.
Profiles of the five NAIS member Green Ribbon Schools follow.
High School (CA) In 2013, O’Dowd hired the first full-time high school sustainability director in Northern California, and the school’s commitment to sustainability has become more tangible every year.
In the 2015–2016 school year, the school moved beyond the low-hanging fruit (e.g., sorting waste correctly, implementing a green cleaning program, etc.), and went after the harder-to-tackle objectives such as shifting purchasing habits and engraining sustainability decision-making into the smallest of renovation projects.
- Nearly 250 on-site solar panels meet approximately 10 percent of the energy demand.
- The rainwater harvesting capacity at the school exceeds 25,000 gallons.
- All ninth graders at O’Dowd take “Science and the Environment,” an interdisciplinary science course that teaches biology, physics, earth science, and chemistry through the lens of environmental science.
- Green Gloves, a 2015 partnership with Clean Water Action’s ReThink Disposable project, replaced disposable plates and bowls in the cafeteria with reusable baskets, reducing solid waste by 3,376 pounds per year.
Paideia School (GA)
In 2007, Paideia constructed one of the first LEED-certified school buildings in Atlanta. One notable design feature is a geothermal heating system, which significantly reduces the cost and environmental impact of heating and cooling. When one of the buildings was devastated by fire, the school salvaged materials, reusing granite and bricks for the new stairs and walkways. The reconstructed facility received LEED Gold certification in 2010.
Parent and student green teams collaborate with staff on a comprehensive waste management program, with bins labeled for recycling, composting, and landfill-bound waste throughout campus. Organic matter goes directly to the school farm for composting by students. The school holds an annual Zero-Waste Thanksgiving Feast, feeding almost 1,000 people but producing only a single small bag of trash.
Paideia also supports the community beyond the school. Students grow and deliver thousands of pounds of organically grown vegetables to local soup kitchens and food pantries and install edible gardens in schools and community gardens in less-resourced neighborhoods.
The St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School administration and staff have worked for nearly a decade to create more efficient building systems, optimize transportation routes, and reduce solid waste through recycling, improved purchasing, and communication.
St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes Middle School (VA)
Over eight years, the middle school has reduced annual electricity consumption by 41 percent. In addition, the school has decreased the bus fleet’s fuel consumption by 42 percent. And through water conservation measures, the school’s water use has fallen 28 percent since the 2010–2011 year.
The sustainability curriculum permeates history, science, religion, mathematics, and art. Students compare renewable energy sources to traditional energy sources in laboratory experiments; they harness technology to model life in environmentally friendly cities; and they conduct horticultural experiments in the school’s greenhouse.
To heighten student awareness of energy-saving measures, a real-time energy dashboard that reports daily, weekly, and monthly energy consumption is available online and in the hallways.
The King School (CT)
Students in King’s Environmental Science and Sustainability elective are split into groups to implement a learning environment analysis that includes the EPA’s Tools for Schools program, with each group responsible for data collection in a different campus building. The process engages just about every King employee,
and the data is used to inform changes.
The school’s food service director increased the percentage of sustainably sourced food. Within one year, King doubled the amount of sustainably sourced food, and expects to double it again by 2020. King is also leading a group of 10 schools in the Fairfield/Westchester county area, which all use the same dining service, to increase procurement of sustainably sourced food.
In addition, King’s sustainability plan includes a very ambitious target of reducing carbon emission by 50 percent in five years. To reach its carbon reduction goals, King’s strategies include increased energy efficiency with infrastructure modifications, increased energy efficiency with conservation behaviors, installation of renewable sources, and sustainable transportation strategies.
Wilmington Montessori School (DE)
The Wilmington Montessori School community has sponsored several ongoing sustainability projects. The sixth graders have joined efforts to raise funds and awareness for Save the Rain, 350.org, and the UNICEF TAP project. The primary students installed a certified Monarch Butterfly Way Station garden. And the lower elementary students have extensively studied wind power, water filtering, oil spills, and river preservation and attended programs at the Delaware AeroSpace Education Foundation to learn about solar power and renewable energy.
In 2014–2015, Wilmington Montessori opened three maker studios for toddler, preschooler, kindergarten, and elementary students to explore science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. Students have explored creating water filtration systems, building hydroponic planting systems, and dying fabric with natural dyes from foods.
Wilmington Montessori is currently participating in the Delaware Valley Green Building Council’s (DVGBC) Pathways to Green Schools and the Eco Schools program. As a part of the DVGBC program, a team from the University of Delaware conducted a daylong energy audit to assist the school staff in understanding ways to conserve energy and resources throughout the school.