The Center for Green Schools at the US Green Building Council (USGBC), in partnership with the Green Schools National Network, has recently revealed the outstanding winners of the 2023 Best of Schools Awards. These awards recognize the exemplary leaders, schools, campuses, and organizations that are driving forward a shared vision of sustainable and eco-friendly schools.
Earlier this month, the 2023 recipients were honored at the 2023 Green Schools Conference in New Orleans. The Green Schools Conference is the ultimate gathering for individuals and companies involved in bringing green schools to life. Including those who lead, operate, build, and teach in schools.
10 Categories of Award Recipients
- The Italian campus of H-FARM International School is an energy and self-sufficient building that encourages the use of green transportation. The school holds two dedicated sustainability days each year for students. Additionally, the school has developed an ongoing student-led bee farm where it holds lessons for students and sells the honey produced at the hive to cover the project costs.
- Magnet school, Park Forest Elementary in Baton Rouge, La., focuses on renewable energy and water conservation while engaging community stakeholders to support lessons on sustainable topics.
- Boulder Valley School District in Colorado has been working for more than 10 years to create healthy learning environments and experiences that equip all students and staff with the knowledge and skills to create more equitable and sustainable communities.
- Under the direction of the Energy and Sustainability team, the Newark Board of Education in New Jersey twice earned Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification in all 65 of its schools.
- U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich from New Mexico introduced Senate Bill 4993, The Living Schoolyards Act, a pioneering bill that will introduce the concept of living schoolyards into the federal record. If passed, it would direct federal resources and funding toward transforming school grounds into living schoolyards.
- Dr. Gerald Lieberman works in collaboration with state and national education agencies, school districts and schools to research and advocate for environment-based sustainability education to help schools meet their academic and environmental goals. He led the development of the nationally recognized EIC Model, California’s “Environmental Principles and Concepts” and the California Board of Education approved “EEI Model Curriculum.”
Michelle Curreri Collaborator Award:
- For over a decade, Hope Gribble has led the development and management of multiple school sustainability programs that have driven the green school momentum in the state of Missouri and has included the Green Schools Quest: A Project-Based Challenge and Missouri Green Schools.
- Shiva Rajbhandari ran to be the first student ever to serve on the Board of Trustees for Boise School District in Idaho, running a grassroots campaign focused on green schools, expanding mental health services, and supporting teachers.
- CMTA has been engineering K-12 facilities for more than 50 years and has engineered some of the first net zero energy schools in the country. The firm has since become a leading national voice for the energy-efficient design of school buildings.
- In 2022, the US Department of Education established, for the first time, an internal knowledge-sharing effort as well as an interagency coordinating group to improve school infrastructure and sustainability by sharing best practices and connecting schools with partnerships and resources. Andrea Falken represents the interests of school stakeholders in conversations with agency partners and lifts up the Department’s Green Ribbon Schools award program.
Moment for the Movement:
- K12 Climate Action, an initiative of the Aspen Institute, seeks to unlock the power of the education sector as a force for climate action, solutions, and environmental justice in an effort to empower the rising generation to advance a sustainable future. The K12 Climate Action Commission is co-chaired by former Education Secretary John King and former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman. In September 2021, they introduced the Climate Action Plan outlining recommendations to support the sector in systemic action on climate change.
- Dawn Eriacho, the lead counselor at Zuni High School in New Mexico, has helped develop intentional experiences that uplift the Ashiwi (Zuni) Core Values, growing student and adult social and emotional competencies. Further, modeling what it means to live in a healthy and sustainable relationship with the Earth and those around her.
Comments from the Council
“The individuals and organizations being honored today inspire students, teachers, and entire communities, who look to their schools as centers of community life,” said Anisa Heming, director at the Center for Green Schools. “The green school movement relies on the collective action of community members, school leaders, educators, as well as for-profit and non-profit partners to push for more sustainable learning environments. And successful green schools are better for students, teachers, and communities, as demonstrated through research and on-the-ground experience.”
“This year’s awardees represent the leading edge of a movement to guarantee a healthy, equitable, and sustainable education for every child,” said Jennifer Seydel, executive director at the Green Schools National Network. “They share our vision in which all children learn in healthy spaces, all educators are stewards of the planet and all students graduate prepared to lead an equitable and just future.”