New Green Schools Part of Green Movement in Education

Green schools - tree planting day with the US Army Corps of EnginneersThe green movement that has swept the globe in the past two decades is now starting to move into the public school system.

Districts across the country are beginning to adopt green policies in hopes of lessening the environmental impact of schools while also teaching students the importance of being eco-friendly.

The green movement is especially noticeable in new school construction.

LEED-Certified Schools Going Up Across the Nation

School districts in 16 states – accounting for almost half of the nation’s 100,000 schools – are planning to spend hundreds of millions on new, green schools, according to a report from USA Today. In some cases, states are requiring school districts to follow a green-rating system (such as LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) when awarding construction contracts.

Nine other states are thinking of doing something similar, according to USA Today. Some of the nation’s biggest cities, including Los Angeles, Houston and New York, already have stringent green standards. USA Today reports that 45 percent of new school construction is green in nature, and that it was only 15% in 2008.

Researcher McGraw-Hill projects that by 2025, all new school construction will be green.

Government Honors Eco-Friendly Schools with Green Ribbon Schools Award

The U.S. Department of Education has started a new Green Ribbon Schools program that recognizes schools that work to reduce environmental impact and costs, provide a better environment for student and staff health and educate students on environmental and sustainability issues.

According to a release from the Department of Education, the award “is part of a larger U.S. Department of Education (ED) effort to identify and disseminate knowledge about practices that are proven to result in improved student engagement, higher academic achievement and graduation rates, and workforce preparedness, as well as a government wide goal of increasing energy independence and economic security.”

In 2013, the second annual Green Ribbon Awards honored 78 schools and programs, with 29 states and the District of Columbia all represented. Honors included a school in Alabama that planned building construction in such a way as to preserve a wetland area, a Colorado school district that has saved more than $14 million in costs through energy-saving efforts, and a New Jersey school that is installing solar roof panels to generate 20 percent of its power.

Areas Where Schools Can Make an Environmental Impact

Schools across the country have taken on a number of different projects to promote green initiatives and make eco-friendly education a part of the school curriculum.

Plant a tree. This classic of the environmental movement is still popular. In some cases, each student is given a tree to plant.

Reusable containers. Some schools have contests for students to participate in that include bringing reusable containers to school for lunch. Some schools also have “no trash days” at lunch to promote the same thing – using reusable containers for lunch.

Planting a garden. In some schools, students are taught sustainability by planting a garden and growing vegetable. In some cases, the garden is then handed down to next class.

Energy Conservation. Another initiative that is a staple across many school districts are campaigns to save money through cutting down on energy use. These programs can range from using alternative energy sources such as solar and wind, as well as reducing the consumption of energy through wattage in lights, installing low-flow plumbing fixtures and changing landscapes to those that require less water.


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Image credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, courtesy flickr



Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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