Red, Green and Blue! 34 States Opt In to U.S. Green Ribbon Schools Award Program

In a time when our political differences seem to be more polarizing than ever, it is encouraging to see that education remains a bipartisan issue.  Half of the 34 states that have now opted in to the U.S. Green Ribbon Schools Award program have Republican governors and are viewed as “red states.”

This seems to confirm that, whether “red” or “blue,” every state has a stake in environmental stewardship and sustainable living.  Teaching K-12 students about the environment and its connection to economics, health, and wellness—-with a strong ‘STEM’ emphasis—is the first step toward driving that common cause home and creating the next generation of environmentally informed and responsible Americans.

The Green Ribbon Schools Award models itself after the highly acclaimed Blue Ribbon program, nearly 30 years old, which recognizes schools for academic progress.  Now, following the May 3rd announcement by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley, schools across the country that save energy, reduce costs, feature environmentally sustainable learning spaces, protect health, and offer environmental education to boost academic achievement and community engagement will be awarded for their great work.

This is an especially exciting initiative for NWF because it lines up with our work of helping more than 4,000 schools go green over the last 15 years through Certified Schoolyard Habitats and the Eco-Schools USA program. The latter, which boasts registered schools in all but four states, will act as a stepping stone for many schools to work their way up to Green Ribbon status.

A Green Shift in American Education

Green Ribbon—-together with initiatives like Eco-Schools USA—signifies a great shift in American education.  In order for the U.S. to remain competitive within the 21st century global green economy, students need curricula that promote critical thinking and innovation.  Studies have shown that schools with an environmental focus help to shape such programs, and may improve  test scores and graduation rates to boot.  Perhaps most importantly, students need to understand their impact on the natural world now more than ever—preferably in a formal school setting–if we are to stem the tide of environmental degradation and misuse. The U.S. Green Ribbon Schools Award recognizes these trends and promotes its integration with all aspects of the school—from the buildings, to the surrounding grounds to the students’ learning experience.

The U.S. can’t lead if it’s lagging behind the pack, and the U.S. Green Ribbon Schools program signals that we recognize green schools as a key to catching up and winning the future.

Green Ribbon states:

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota , Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island (Independent), Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin

Italics indicate states with Republican governors. Rhode Island is Independent.