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Green Ribbon Schools


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The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) recognition award honors public and private elementary, middle, and high schools and districts that are exemplary in three areas: 1) reducing environmental impact and costs, including waste, water, energy use and alternative transportation; 2) improving the health and wellness of students and staff, covering environmental health and nutrition and fitness; and, finally, 3) providing effective sustainability education, requiring robust environmental education that engages STEM, civic skills and green career pathways. The award is meant to encourage schools and school districts to consider matters of facilities, health and environment comprehensively. Schools must be high achieving in all three areas, not just one.

Green schools are critical to schools’ fiscal health and our nation's economy. Much needed improvements to school facilities create new jobs and save schools money. They prepare students to participate in the green economy, strengthen the nation's energy security and conserve precious natural resources. Healthy behaviors, environmental education and green facilities are as vital to individual students as they are to 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).

The Green Ribbon Schools honorees will be nationally recognized as some of America's most successful schools – in performance related to environmental impact, health and education. Schools selected as Green Ribbon Schools may report a renewed sense of pride and accomplishment at their school. There are benefits to all schools moving toward the three Green Ribbon Schools pillars. National studies and existing green schools programs have linked energy savings to schools’ cost savings; school environmental health to student and staff productivity; and environmental education to increased student engagement, in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects among others, improved student performance, enhanced critical thinking and innovation skills and reduced behavioral problems.

Each year, all winning schools are invited to Washington, D.C. for a ceremony to celebrate their success, share information and receive a plaque to commemorate their achievement.

Applications must be submitted to the Iowa Department of Education (IDE) by January 10, 2014. IDE will review applications based on the applicant’s demonstrated progress towards the goals of each of the three pillars. Nominees demonstrating exemplary achievement in all three pillars and every element will be ranked highest. IDE is permitted to nominate to the ED-GRS as many as four PK-12 school nominations and one school district nomination. For more information about the program, contact Gary Schwartz, Facilities Consultant, phone 515-281-4743 or


Two applications for the Green Ribbon Schools program are available:

School: FY14 Green Ribbon School Application

District: FY14 Green Ribbon District Application


Pillars and Elements

I. Environmental Impact and Energy Efficiency

  • Reduced or eliminated greenhouse gas emissions, using an energy audit or emissions inventory and reduction plan, cost-effective energy efficiency improvements, conservation measures, and/or  and on-site renewable energy and/or purchase of green power;
  • Improved water quality, efficiency, and conservation;
  • Reduced solid and hazardous waste production, through increased recycling, reduced consumption, and improved management, reduction, or elimination of hazardous waste streams; and
  • Expanded use of alternative transportation to, during and from school, through active promotion of locally-available, energy-efficient options and implementation of alternative transportation supportive projects and policies.

II. Healthy School Environments

  • An integrated school environmental health program based on an operations and facility-wide environmental management system that considers student, visitor and staff health and safety in all practices related to design, construction, renovation, operations, and maintenance of schools and grounds; and
  • High standards of nutrition, fitness, and quantity of quality outdoor time for both students and staff.

III. Environmental and Sustainability Education

  • Interdisciplinary learning about the key relationships between dynamic environmental, energy and human systems;
  • Use of the environment and sustainability to develop STEM content knowledge and thinking skills to prepare graduates for the 21st century technology-driven economy;  and
  • Development of civic engagement knowledge and skills, and students' application of these to address sustainability and environmental



  • November 2013: Iowa Department of Education (IDE) issues school application and guidelines for soliciting and selecting nominees for submission to USED.
  • January 10, 2014: Deadline for schools to submit application to the IDE for nomination.
  • January 2014: IDE convenes review committee to review applications against eligibility requirements and USED criteria.
  • February 1, 2014: Review committee selects and submits up to 4 school nominees and one school district to USED for the Green Ribbon Schools recognition award.
  • April 22, 2014: USED verifies that nominees meet eligibility requirements and have been evaluated against USED criteria. USED, with assistance from EPA, then reviews and rates schools based on eligibility criteria.
  • Earth Day Week 2014: USED announces winners.
  • July 22, 2014: USED hosts national recognition award ceremony in Washington, D.C.


Past Iowa Honorees

2013 GRS Iowa Honorees

2012 GRS Iowa Honoree


Additional Information



Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on April 19, 2014 at 3:38pm.