April definitely is the month for green. Not only did millions come together to celebrate Earth Day, but the federal government also has launched the Green Ribbon School program, a rewards program for K-12 schools that create a healthy, green, and sustainable learning environment.
At the foundation of every Green Ribbon School lies four important principles: an environmentally friendly campus, an encouragement to engage in nature, strong emphasis on health and nutrition, and the use of natural classrooms. These help facilitate a connection with nature, a sense of responsibility for environment, and a holistic, purposeful relationship with the world.
The Green Ribbon School program was modeled after the Blue Ribbon School program, which rewards K-12 schools for academic excellence. Here, the idea is the same: if you give incentives to academic institutions to create healthy, educational environments above and beyond the standard, they will work hard at doing so.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that “The schools taking part in this initiative will help kids connect what they’re learning in science class with the world around them, allowing them to envision solutions to tomorrow’s challenges while living healthier lives today.”
This approach allows for creativity on behalf of the school, while making sure that it is equipping students with practical knowledge they can use in life, later careers, and higher education. Jackson went on to say that “By making green living a part of everyday learning, Green Ribbon Schools will prepare our children to win the future by leading our global green energy economy.”
Ideally, this program will also lead to reduced energy use by many of the schools involved. With applications of solar energy, school gardens and compost, rain storage devices, and other sustainable development ideas, energy consumption – as well as waste – are expected to decrease. The increase in efficiency will not only lead to reduced pollutants and decreased consumption, but also to a healthier environment for the students and community.
Behind the support of this program is the EPA, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and, of course, the Department of Education. To many, this move toward greener schools highlights President Obama’s commitment to the environment, reducing carbon emissions, and educating our nation’s youth.
Why are Green Schools so Important?
While everything sounds great about these schools, some still may question why they are so important. Truth is, there are a number of reasons efforts like the Green Ribbon School program are so critical to national success.
According to the website, “Schools are being asked to reduce obesity, conserve energy, improve test scores, trim budgets. It’s a tall order.” And while it may be certainly difficult to accomplish these goals, the minds behind the Green Ribbon School program are fervent in their support. They state directly to schools that “The “Green Ribbon Schools” program helps you connect with resources that help you accomplish your goals. We also want to recognize the efforts you are making to improve student and staff success and well being.”