March 1, 2023 – (New Orleans, La.) Today, the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council, in collaboration with the Green Schools National Network, has announced the recipients of the 2023 Best of Schools Awards. The awards celebrate the leaders—individuals, schools, campuses and organizations—advancing the organizations’ shared vision of green schools.
The award recipients were announced at the 2023 Green Schools Conference in New Orleans. The Green Schools Conference is the only event to bring together all the players involved in making green schools a reality: people who lead, operate, build and teach in schools—and it is the perfect place to honor our awardees.
“The individuals and organizations being honored today inspire students, teachers and entire communities, who look to their schools as centers of community life,” said Anisa Heming, director at the Center for Green Schools. “The green schools movement relies on the collective action of community members, school leaders, educators, as well as for-profit and non-profit partners to push for more sustainable learning environments. And successful green schools are better for students, teachers and communities, as demonstrated through research and on-the-ground experience.”
“This year’s awardees represent the leading edge of a movement to guarantee a healthy, equitable and sustainable education for every child,” said Jennifer Seydel, executive director at the Green Schools National Network. “They share our vision in which all children learn in healthy spaces, all educators are stewards of the planet and all students graduate prepared to lead an equitable and just future.”
Photo credit: Zack Smith.
The awards were presented to organizations or individuals that have worked to move green schools forward in ten categories. The 2023 Best of Green School recipients are:
- The Italian campus of H-FARM International School, developed in previously abandoned buildings, is an energy and self-sufficient building that encourages the use of green transportation. The school holds two dedicated sustainability days each year for students and has developed an ongoing student-led bee farm where it holds lessons for students and sells the honey produced at the hive to cover the project costs.
- Park Forest Elementary in Baton Rouge, La., is a magnet school with a creative sciences and arts theme, focusing on renewable energy and water conservation and engages community stakeholders to support lessons on sustainable topics like conservation, sustainability and renewable energy.
- Boulder Valley School District in Colorado has been working for more than 10 years to create healthy learning environments and experiences that equip all students and staff with the knowledge and skills to create more equitable and sustainable communities.
- Under the direction of the Energy and Sustainability team, the Newark Board of Education in New Jersey twice earned Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification in all 65 of its schools through initiatives such as board policies for green cleaning and green purchasing as well as having dedicated green teams at each school.
- U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich from New Mexico introduced Senate Bill 4993, The Living Schoolyards Act, a pioneering bill that will introduce the concept of living schoolyards into the federal record. If passed, it would direct important federal resources and funding towards transforming school grounds into living schoolyards.
- Dr. Gerald Lieberman works in collaboration with state and national education agencies, school districts and schools to research and advocate for environment-based sustainability education to help schools meet their academic and environmental goals. He led the development of the nationally recognized EIC Model, California’s “Environmental Principles and Concepts” and the California Board of Education approved “EEI Model Curriculum.”
Michelle Curreri Collaborator Award:
- For over a decade, Hope Gribble has led the development and management of multiple school sustainability programs that have driven the green school momentum in the state of Missouri and has included the Green Schools Quest: A Project-Based Challenge and Missouri Green Schools.
- Shiva Rajbhandari ran to be the first student ever to serve on the Board of Trustees for Boise School District in Idaho, running a grassroots campaign focused on green schools, expanding mental health services and supporting teachers. During his time on the board, he has become a leading voice for climate action, student empowerment and public education in Boise and across Idaho.
- CMTA has been engineering K-12 facilities for more than 50 years and have engineered some of the first net zero energy schools in the country. The firm has since become a leading national voice for energy efficient design of school buildings.
- In 2022, U.S. Department of Education established, for the first time, an internal knowledge-sharing effort as well as an interagency coordinating group to improve school infrastructure and sustainability by sharing best practices and connecting schools with partnerships and resources. Andrea Falken, special advisor for infrastructure and sustainability, represents the interests of school stakeholders in conversations with agency partners and lifts up the Department’s Green Ribbon Schools award program as an opportunity to highlight excellence across the country.
Moment for the Movement:
- K12 Climate Action, an initiative of the Aspen Institute, seeks to unlock the power of the education sector as a force for climate action, solutions and environmental justice in an effort to empower the rising generation to advance a sustainable future. The K12 Climate Action Commission, co-chaired by former Education Secretary John King and former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, released the K12 Climate Action Plan in September 2021, outlining recommendations to support the sector in systemic action on climate change.
- Dawn Eriacho, lead counselor at Zuni High School in New Mexico, has helped develop intentional experiences that uplift the Ashiwi (Zuni) Core Values, growing student and adult social and emotional competencies and models what it means to live in a healthy and sustainable relationship with the Earth and those around her.