The Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), in collaboration with the Green Schools National Network (GSNN), announced the recipients of the 2019 Best of Green Schools Awards. The awards represent the best environmental efforts in schools across the country and highlight the national leaders in school sustainability. Honorees will receive their awards at USGBC’s Green Schools Conference and Expo taking place in St. Paul, Minnesota, April 8-9 at the Saint Paul RiverCentre.
“These honorees truly embody the value of stewardship,” said Anisa Heming, director, Center for Green Schools at USGBC. “The work they have done to advance environmental literacy and the quality of the spaces where learning takes place, is so impactful. Youth everywhere are inspiring what the future of our world should look like and we are committed to supporting them in that effort.”
This year’s awards recognized nine individuals, institutions and projects. These recipients reflect the hard work being done in K-12 schools through grassroots organization, cross-sector collaboration and hands-on experiential learning to build healthy, sustainable learning spaces and foster the next generation of 21st century leaders.
“Transforming all schools into green, healthy, sustainable schools is one of the most important education initiatives happening today,” said Jennifer Seydel, executive director, Green Schools National Network. “The students, teachers, educational leaders and their partners being recognized this year reflect the expansion of this transformative movement. We are humbled and awed by the effort of every person and project being recognized this year.”
Award recipients will be recognized onstage during the Green Schools Awards luncheon on Monday, April 8, at 11:30 a.m. CDT. Honorees include:
- Ambassador Award: Victoria Rydberg, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (Madison, Wisconsin); In her role with the department’s Environmental Education program, Rydberg supports all 242 state school districts in updating environmental and sustainability education standards, and integrating them into professional development, resources and teaching.
- Business Leader Award: Gensler (Houston, Texas); The global architecture firm has designed LEED-certified schools across the U.S., focusing on delivering healthy learning spaces. Firm-wide, Gensler also leads in sustainable performance; last year alone, the firm kept nearly 11 million metric tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere.
- Collaborator Award: Green Schools Recognition Program, Florida Atlantic University (West Palm Beach, Florida); An initiative of the university’s Pine Jog Environmental Education Center, the program serves more than 120 South Florida schools, infusing environmental education into K12 curriculum for 110,000-plus students every year.
- Higher Education Institution Award: University of Nebraska-Lincoln Environmental Studies Program (Lincoln, Nebraska); The university’s environmental studies program collaborates with the local school district to engage high school students around research and planning activities that reduce the environmental impacts of public K12 school buildings.
- K12 School Award: Green Street Academy (Baltimore, Maryland.); The Green Street Academy/GSA Farms is a grade 6-12 charter school and urban farm that applies STEM studies to sustainable practices, career skills and self-reliance, engaging all 850 students in experiencing the benefits of a sustainable schoolyard and future.
- School System Award: South San Francisco School District (South San Francisco, California); The district’s pioneering sustainable energy STEM education program not only includes infrastructure upgrades for overall safety and comfort, it also provides 2,100 students and 50 teachers with real-world, hands-on activities and professional development.
- Student Leader Award: Ella Culton, The Greene School (West Greenwich, Rhode Island); A local and national role model for youth civic leadership, Culton has helped raise awareness for climate change, safe drinking water, and environmental and social justice in her community.
- Transformation Award: New Roots Charter School (Ithaca, New York); The Cayuga Wetlands Restoration Project, in collaboration with the Cayuga Nation, was initiated in a science class. In just two years, it has restored wetland on the south end of Cayuga Lake, with future plans to create a youth conservation corps to improve state waterways.
- Policymaker Award: Karen Alarid, Albuquerque Public Schools (Albuquerque, New Mexico); As the executive director for facilities design and construction, Alarid has overseen more than 50 LEED projects across the district. She also helmed the district’s 20-year plan to cut resource consumption across more than 160 campuses, achieving 98 percent of their energy reduction goal in only five years.