The U.S. Department of Education, the White House, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently honored the first-ever Green Ribbon Schools. The list includes 78 schools spanning 29 states and Washington, D.C.

The Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) is a federal recognition program that opened in Sept. 2011. Honored schools exercise a comprehensive approach to creating green environments by reducing environmental impact, promoting health, and ensuring a high-quality environmental and outdoor education to prepare students with the 21st century skills and sustainability concepts needed in the growing global economy.

The 78 award-winning schools were selected from a pool of nearly 100 nominees submitted by 30 state education agencies, the District of Columbia, and the Bureau of Indian Education. More than 350 schools completed applications to represent their state’s education agency. Among the list of winners are 66 public schools, including eight charters, and 12 private schools. In total, 43 elementary schools, 31 middle schools, and 26 high schools were honored.

“These Green Ribbon schools are giving students and educators what they need to maximize learning and minimize risks like asthma and other respiratory illnesses, ensuring that no child is burdened by pollution in or around their school,” said Lisa Jackson, EPA administrator. “Today’s winners are protecting our children’s health and opening up environmental education opportunities for students. The EPA is proud to help recognize the Green Ribbon award winners and will continue working to improve the environment of our nation’s schools and helping prepare students to succeed in the emerging green economy.”

High-Efficiency High School

Erie High School, Erie, Kansas, is one of the 78 schools honored. The school is the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified high school and LEED Gold K-12 educational building in Kansas. The school’s HVAC system consists of a vertical closed-looped, geo-exchange well field installed beneath its practice football fields. Vertical inline pumps, manufactured by Armstrong, facilitate the process. Water-to-air heat pump systems by WaterFurnace provide heating and cooling. Dedicated outside air heat pumps from Innovent condition raw air with energy-recovery wheels to supply code-compliant ventilation with reduced energy consumption.

The geo-exchange HVAC system also includes a ground coupled heat exchanger installer manufactured by Ground Source Systems. Active humidity control with energy recovery wheels are installed in the ventilation system and each classroom is provided with its own temperature, humidity, and CO2 monitoring control system, built by Andover Continuum, to help improve comfort, satisfaction, air quality, and energy conservation.

“The building is used as a learning tool for our students. We also include a walking tour that was designed and organized by our student-led green team,” said Steve Oliver, building principal. “Although we are a small rural southeast Kansas high school, we are very proud of our building and campus along with the efforts we have made as a school and community to promote environmentally friendly practices.”

Exemplary Elementary School

Green Ribbon winner Richardsville Elementary School, Bowling Green, Ky., was recently recognized as a net-zero facility, meaning the school produces the same amount of energy it uses each year. The building is designed to use approximately 18 kBtu per square foot annually, which is 75 percent less than the ASHRAE 90.1 design standard for elementary schools.

The 72,285-square-foot institution is heated and cooled through a geothermal system manufactured by Hydro-Temp. The geothermal equipment includes two-speed compressors to increase part-load efficiency. A distributive geothermal loop reduces energy and ECM motors reduce fan energy. The system utilizes one heat pump each for every two classrooms, to help minimize maintenance. The system also stores hot-water, eliminating the need for hot water heaters.

“Schools that take a green approach cut costs on their utility bills, foster healthy and productive classrooms, and prepare students to thrive in the 21st century economy,” said Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “These Green Ribbon award winners are taking outstanding steps to educate tomorrow’s environmental leaders, and demonstrating how sustainability and environmental awareness make sense for the health of our students and our country.”

Among others, students and faculty followed energy-efficiency resources including EPA Guidelines for Energy Management, Department of Energy’s (DOE) State Energy Program, DOE’s Purchasing Specifications for Energy Efficient Products, U.S. Green Building Council’s Green School Resources, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Green Standard, and more while considering improvements.

“Science, environmental, and outdoor education play a central role in providing children with a well-rounded education, helping prepare them for the jobs of the future,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools demonstrates compelling examples of the way schools can help children build real-world skill sets, cut school costs, and provide healthy learning environments.”

The U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbons are one-year recognition awards. Next year’s competition will open in summer. State agencies are encouraged to send their intents to submit nominees via email to For more information, visit

Publication date: 7/30/2012