The Green Ribbon Award Pillars

The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) award is intended to recognize those schools taking a comprehensive approach to greening their school. A comprehensive approach means incorporating and integrating environmental and sustainability education into all school learning along with maximizing the school’s net positive environmental and health impacts. The award criteria focus on measurable outcomes wherever possible.

Application reviews will be based on the applicant’s demonstrated progress towards the goals of each of the three ED-GRS “Pillars”:

1.  The school has a “net zero” environmental impact

2.  The school environment has a positive impact on the health and performance of students and staff

3. 100% of the school’s graduates are environmentally and sustainability literate

Keep these ideas in mind as you consider applying to become a nominee:

      These are ambitious goals and few if any schools are expected to have achieved all three, or perhaps even 100% of any one of the pillars.

     Schools demonstrating exemplary achievement in all three Pillars will receive the highest ranking.

     It is important to demonstrate concrete achievement, using quantified measures wherever possible.

Applying to win a Green Ribbon:

Schools must be nominated by their state chief education officer and cannot apply directly to the U.S. Department of Education. Each state may nominate up to four schools to ED.  If a state wishes to nominate more than one public school, at least one must be a school with 40 percent or more of their students from a disadvantaged background.  If a state wishes to nominate a fourth school, one of the four nominations must be a private school.

So the first step is for you to contact your state ED-GRS representative to get an application. In general, applications can be submitted in most states between late September and the end of December. States then review the applications and submit their nominees in February, and ED announces winners around Earth Day (mid April).

The Green Ribbon Schools Partnership developed a sample application form for the pilot year to help states get started. Most participating states have adopted this form with modest changes to make it applicable to their state. You can view this sample by downloading it here. Much of this website outlines the content of this application along with helpful links for each question. However, please note that every state application is somewhat different, so you may or may not find a particular question on this site in your state application.