National & State Green School Programs
Several national and state green school programs are noted below; each addresses similar pathways to sustainability that can be achieved through a combination of projects. All School Grounds for Learning projects are aligned with U.S. Green Ribbon Schools pillars and application requirements, and U.S. Green Ribbon Schools tools and Eco-Schools USA Sustainability Pathway tools are imbedded in each of the project sections. Schools can work with their state green schools program while simultaneously pursuing recognition or assistance through any of the national programs noted below.
- U.S. Green Ribbon Schools
- National Wildlife Federation Eco Schools USA
- Project Learning Tree Green Schools
- Tools to Green Existing Schools (U.S. Green Building Council & EPA)
- Professional Development
- State Green School/ Sustainable School Programs
- Meaningful Watershed Education Experience (MWEE) Guide
The aim of the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools program is to inspire schools to pursue promising practices in three “pillar” areas: Reduce environmental impact and costs; improve the health and wellness of schools, students & staff; and provide effective environmental and sustainability education. Combined progress in all three pillars serves as the basis for recognition.
U.S. Green Ribbon Schools Program Overview
Every School Can be a Green School: Getting Started Checklist
U.S. Green Ribbon Schools Applicant Materials
Guide to Resources for U.S. Green Ribbon Schools Application*
- Green Existing Schools Implementation Workbook
- ENERGYSTAR Portfolio Manager
- LEED Rating System
- LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance Rating System
*Note: The links on this guide page are not active, but active links (connecting to the Implementation Workbook pages noted) are on the Bay Backpack project pages for each topic (e.g., Energy, Green Cleaning, etc.). Links to the full Implementation Workbook and LEED resources referenced in this guide are above.
The National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA program encourages students, administrators, educators and volunteers to work together to combine effective “green” management of school grounds, facilities and curriculum. Similar to the U.S. Green Ribbon School “pillars”, Eco Schools USA provides comprehensive instructional resources to inspire schools to follow “pathways to sustainability”. Eco-Schools USA has aligned their program to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and to the National Science Education Standards (NSES).
Become an Eco School: Handbook, Toolkit & More
Eco Schools: Pathways to Sustainable Development
Project Learning Tree offers resources and training for adults, tips on starting a student-driven GreenSchools program, how to obtain equipment and collect data, and ways to empower students to design and lead an action project that uses their STEM skills.
Project Learning Tree GreenSchools Program
The U.S. Green Ribbon School Green Existing Schools tools are designed to help schools and school districts launch and implement an initiative to green their existing facilities. It outlines the entire process, from ways to make the case for going green to how to promote success. Used in conjunction with project instructional materials, school administrators, facilities staff, and program managers will have the necessary resources to operate and maintain schools that are healthy for students, comfortable for teachers, and cost-effective.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. Green Building Council
- Green Existing Schools Project Management Guide
- Tools to Green Existing Schools Web Training (9mins)
- How Green Existing Schools Companion Guide
- Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) Improvement Web Training (9mins)
- Indoor Environmental Quality Companion Guide
In the past decade, the sustainable schools movement had truly gained momentum across the country, and the world. Learn more about green school training and networking opportunities.
If you do not see a program listed for your state, contact your state environmental education organization to find out if your state has a program, is in the process of forming one, or may have interest in developing one in concert with one of the national programs mentioned above.
Delaware: Delaware Pathways to Green Schools
Maryland: Maryland Green Schools Program
Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Green and Healthy School Partnership
Virginia: Virginia Naturally School Recognition Program
Washington, DC: DCEEC Design Healthy Green Sustainable Schools for DC (in progress)
West Virginia: West Virginia Sustainable Schools
Find more green school resources in our Resource Center .
MWEEs are learner-centered experiences that focus on investigations into local environmental issues that lead to informed action and civic engagement. The MWEE consists of four essential elements that describe “what students do”: Issue Definition, Outdoor Field Experiences, Synthesis & Conclusions, and Action Projects. These elements promote a learner-centered approach that emphasizes the role of the student in actively constructing meaning from the learning experiences. The MWEE also includes four supporting practices that describe “what teachers do” to ensure success: Active Teacher Support, Classroom Integration, Local Context, and Sustained Activity. Visit the online MWEE Guide for resources on developing MWEEs for your school!