A Dose of Inspiration: Eco-Schools Are Springing Up Across the Northeast

One Amazing Student that is going to change the world!
I got a great dose of inspiration recently when I attended an amazing event at Sleepy Hollow Middle School in New York. One of the schools Green Team really made the day memorable, when she told me that I was inspiration to her. It was such a moving moment for me. I told her that I was so lucky to have a “job” that I got to protect wildlife and help students change the world. I know that with students like her, we can and will take on our society’s biggest challenges.

Sleepy Hollow Middle School was awarded the first “Green Flag” in New York State (sixth in the country). Sleepy Hollow should also be proud of being one of the United States Department of Education’s 78 inaugural U.S. Green Ribbon Schools.

Michael Garguilo, Green Team Staff Advisor and science teacher and his students deserve a heap of praise for all his hard work, including engineering a 40% recycling rate increase. They also planted vegetable gardens, installed light sensors and energy conservation signage in all classrooms, and launched an ambitious ‘Bag It’ campaign to reduce plastic bag usage in the region.

In June, NWF’s Curtis Fisher and Liz Soper awarded New York’s first green flag, Eco-Schools’ highest award level, to Sleepy Hollow Middle School in Westchester County.
My experience at Sleep Hollow got me thinking about all the work that the National Wildlife Federation is doing to advance Eco-Schools across the Northeast. Doubling the number of Eco-Schools in one year would not have been possible without terrific staff, amazing students, teachers, parents and administrators. We want to double the number of Eco-Schools again this year. We need your help—check out the Eco-Schools website and gets involved.

Registered Eco-Schools(4/30/2011) Registered Eco-Schools(6/31/2012)

New York



New Jersey






Rhode Island









New Hampshire









New York

NWF’s Omari Washington and PS41’s Sustainability Coordinator, Vicki Sando discuss plans to launch their new model green roof. PS41 is a model Eco-School which NWF awarded a $7,000 grant to support their sustainability efforts.
We built an exciting partnership with New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE).  NYCDOE operates the largest public education system in the nation with 80,000 teachers and one million students and 1,700 schools. We hired Omari Washington as an Eco-School consultant who has conducted outreach to 67 diverse schools in every borough. We are also working closely with a set of great partners, including Solar 1, United Federation of Teachers, and Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation (CELF) to jointly advance sustainability in NYC schools and the Eco-Schools USA program.

NWF has also trained approximately 600 NYC’s 1,700 Sustainability Coordinators which are designated for each school in the City (more trainings are coming in the fall). Sustainability Coordinators are the key entry point into schools, and we heard from them that Eco-Schools makes their job of advancing sustainability easier.

Artistic rendering of how the PS41 rooftop will look when completed.
We are looking forward to expanding our NYCDOE partnership to help NYC realize its goals fordoubling recycling by 2013; reducing greenhouse gas emissions from DOE buildings and operations by 30 percent by 2017; providing sustainable curriculum resources to principals and teachers; and getting students connected to nature.

New Jersey

NWF has formed a very exciting partnership with NJ Audubon and Sustainable Jersey to advance Eco-Schools in the Garden State. The goal of our partnership is to create a combined certification program for both municipalities and schools to demonstrate true community support for sustainable practices. We are also partnering with other terrific organizations, including the Education and Information Resource Center, the New Jersey Environmental Education Council, Alliance for NJ Environmental Education, and many more organizations.

NWF, NJ Audubon and Sustainable Jersey are also working collaboratively on creating an innovative partnership with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and Taiwan to develop a model sustainability Initiative in New Jersey. The goal is to create a program that can be replicated in Taiwan, and create a link between K-12 school children in Taiwan and New Jersey.


Benjamin Franklin Elementary in Plainsboro, New Jersey, a super Eco-School hosted a groundbreaking event for their new outdoor nature classroom and yard and hosted leadership from NWF, EPA, and Taiwan (Eco-School Director Laura Hickey on right).
Acton Boxborough Regional High School was awarded a coveted Eco-Schools USA Green Flag on May 4, 2012 for student leadership and making its facilities more environmentally sustainable, an effort that has led to a 10 percent reduction in electricity usage since September 2010 and boosted recycling rates by 250 percent. The work of ‘greening’ the school has included a ‘Power Down Friday’ initiative to make sure equipment and lights are shut off at the end of the school week and projects such as a ‘trash party,’ which allowed an audit of cafeteria wasteand reduction of daily cafeteria trash output from 40 bags to four.

Vermont/New Hampshire

NWF staff has worked with Hanover High School/Marion Cross, a registered Eco-School. The school is working on the “Healthy Living Pathway.”  NWF is also working with the Burlington, Vermont school system. Burlington’s new charter school, the Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes, is currently a registered Eco-School.

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