Eco-Schools USA: Celebrating Last Year’s Accomplishments and Ringing in 2012

We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.

This lovely saying from Edith Lovejoy Pierce epitomizes to me what the New Year represents – a chance to take a good look at where we’ve been, and start writing out a plan for the coming year.

For the K-12 schools that participate in the Eco-Schools USA program, January 1st is about a third of the way through the school year, and the holiday break allowed students, teachers, and staff to recharge their internal batteries and get ready to continue their school greening process.

I’m really excited about the prospects for the New Year and very proud of what the NWF Eco-Schools USA program was able to accomplish in 2011.  Here’s a few of our more noteworthy 2011 program milestones:

•    Total registered Eco-Schools (since USA program inception): 784 in 46 states plus DC
•    Students served: 480,788
•    Green Flag Award Schools:  3
•    Silver Award Schools:  17
•    Bronze Award Schools:  54
•    Title I or Free/Subsidized Lunch Program participating schools:  60%
•    Average facility expense savings per school: 10-30%
•    Program fee: $0

Savannah Country Day School (Laura Hickey)
But that’s only part of the story.  What these numbers can’t convey is how hard these schools worked to integrate environmental literacy into curriculum and provide hands-on experiences for their students as they implemented the Eco-Schools USA programmatic seven steps.  It’s important to document progress – and reward it as well.

As our Eco-Schools ring in the New Year, I hope that they make a resolution to look back at how far they’ve come, celebrate their successes, identify new opportunities, and apply for an Eco-Schools USA award.

There are new checklists available for the Bronze, Silver, and Green Flag awards so that schools know how close they are to achieving the recognition they so richly deserve.

Happy New Year, Eco-Schools!