Black, Orange… and Green! My Alma Mater is a U.S. Green Ribbon School

Now more than ever, I can’t hide my Tiger pride.

Last month, I was thrilled to learn that Loveland High School in Loveland, Ohio, was officially named a U.S. Green Ribbon School for excellence in environmental literacy and sustainability.

In case you’re not familiar with USGRS, this is a huge deal. The U.S. Green Ribbon Schools program was launched by the U.S. Department of Education, EPA, and the White House’s Center for Environmental Quality, with coordination help from NWF, Campaign for Environmental Literacy, Earth Day Network and U.S. Green Building Council. In this, the program’s inaugural year, 78 schools from 29 states and the District of Columbia have been recognized, and serve as examples for aspiring green schools everywhere. And of those winners, 19 were already registered in NWF’s Eco-Schools USA program.

Until I heard the good news, I was (sadly) unaware of the greening of my former high school. After all, the Cincinnati area isn’t traditionally regarded a hotbed of environmentalism (which I’d argue is largely because hotbeds of media tend to ignore news to the contrary).

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson at the announcement of the first U.S. Green Ribbon Schools
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson at the U.S. Green Ribbon Schools announcement (U.S. Dept. of Ed.)
But lo and behold, my former biology teacher Tracy Burge – Ms. Burge to Lovelanders – has been leading the charge for sustainability at 1 Tiger Trail. Last year, Ms. Burge’s environmental science class began a recycling program resulting in a major reduction of cafeteria trash: from 60 to 22 bags a day. In the coming 2012/13 school year, the cafeteria will adopt a composting program that will even further reduce waste. Meanwhile, beyond the brick walls, an effort is under way to restore 18 acres of woods and prairie habitat on school grounds. This isn’t even the complete list of Loveland’s environmental achievements that were commended by USGRS.

Honoring Teachers Across the Country

Prior to the launch of U.S. Green Ribbon Schools, the environmental efforts of teachers and school administrators rarely received national attention. So it was well-deserved when the Obama Administration hosted an awards ceremony  for the winning schools this past Monday.

Students of Pine Jog Elementary, a U.S. Green Ribbon and NWF Eco-School, hold up lettuce from their hydroponic garden.
Pine Jog Elementary is a U.S. Green Ribbon and NWF Eco-School
For me, the event was an opportunity to hear about green initiatives from all over the country straight from the source – including some very impressive NWF Eco-Schools. Evergreen Community Charter School in North Carolina is one such example, where students conduct regular trash audits, tend to a school-community garden, and donate part of the harvest to a local food bank.

Many educators I spoke with loved the idea of dual recognition from USGRS and Eco-Schools USA. The NWF Eco-Schools program recognizes schools for exceptional achievement in creating ‘green’ spaces on school grounds, conserving natural resources and integrating environmental education into curricula. More than 1,200 American schools are enrolled in the program so far, including 19 of the inaugural U.S. Green Ribbon Schools.

Find out how your school can become certified through the Eco-Schools USA program, or read about how its seven step framework and pathways support all three of the Green Ribbon pillars – thus providing a stepping stone for joining this prestigious group.