This year’s Green Schools Conference and Expo was memorable for many reasons.  One highlight in particular, for me, was the presentation of the Best of Green Schools 2016 awards during the conference’s opening and closing plenaries .  This is the first year that the Green Schools National Network partnered with the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to co-present the Best of Green Schools 2016.  I cannot think of a better setting to announce the winners than this “tribal gathering” of the leaders and innovators in the green schools movement.


The Best of Green Schools recognizes the people, schools, campuses, and organizations making a big difference in creating healthy, efficient learning environments for our students.  The 2016 honorees are true exemplars and champions of the green schools movement and deserve recognition for their tireless efforts.


Allow me to introduce you to the Best of Green Schools 2016 honorees:


Deborah Moore, Green Schools Initiative (Ambassador)

Deborah Moore founded the Green Schools Initiative, a non-profit in Berkeley, California dedicated to developing greener, more environmentally sustainable schools.  She has been an advocate for the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools awards and the California Green Ribbon Schools recognition program, and helped write the Environmental Literacy Blueprint for California.  Deborah was also instrumental in launching the Nature’s Voices Project to amplify students’ role in the green schools movement.


Pauline Souza, WRNS Studio Partner and Director of Sustainability (Business Leadership)

Pauline Souza has dedicated her career to building and advocating for high-quality sustainable educational environments – working with school administrators, educators, and students to bring sustainable values into the educational community.  She currently serves as a USGBC Green Schools National Chair and has been an active USGBC Green Schools Advocate since 2007.


Space to Grow: Greening Chicago Schoolyards (Collaborator)

Space to Grow is a public-private partnership that transforms Chicago schoolyards into safe and accessible spaces for students to play, explore, and learn while addressing stormwater management and water conservation needs. Space to Grow is funded through a unique model that leverages capital investments from three public agencies: Chicago Public Schools, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, and the Chicago Department of Water Management.  The partnership is co-managed by Healthy Schools Campaign and Openlands.


Wings of Hope Environmental Education Program at Florida Gulf Coast University (Higher Ed. Partner)

Florida Gulf Coast University’s (FGCU) Wings of Hope program seeks to protect the Florida Panther and its habitat through transformational environmental education, research, and awareness. Every year, over 4,000 fourth and fifth grade students, known as the Florida Panther Posse, work with FGCU students to learn about the natural systems that support Southwest Florida’s biodiverse ecology and the Florida Panther.


Environmental Charter Schools (K-12 School)

Environmental Charter Schools (ECS) in Los Angeles, California creates and delivers vibrant, innovative, interdisciplinary learning opportunities using the environment to engage students and connect them to the wider world.  ECS’s best practice model emphasizes a small community school paired with an interdisciplinary curriculum and authentic assessment, environmental and experiential learning, and community partnerships.  ECS shares its best practices through The Green Ambassador Institute, a professional development program for educators and organizations looking to implement hands-on sustainablity education.


Green Schools Alliance District Collaborative (Moment for the Movement)

The Green Schools Alliance District Collaborative was formed to harness the collective power of schools to support greener, more efficient solutions.  Comprised of 21 U.S. school districts, its mission is to leverage the collective knowledge, experience, and influence of its members to accelerate the implementation of sustainability principles that incorporate sound environmental, economic, and equitable decisions in schools.


Research Summit on Childhood Health and School Buildings (Moment for the Movement)

On November 17th, 2015, the Collaborative for High Performance Schools, AIA Committee on Architecture for Education, and the Center for Green Schools came together to host the first-ever Research Summit on Childhood Health and School Buildings in Washington DC. The summit was a tremendous step forward for the green schools movement, bringing together thought leaders for a day of collaboration around one of the movement’s most pressing concerns: how the school environment impacts children’s health.


Representative Chris Lee, Hawaii (Policy Maker)

Hawaii Representative Chris Lee sponsored HB 1509, mandating that Hawaii’s entire public higher education system operate as net zero by no later than January 1, 2035.  The bill was signed into law in June 2015 as part of a suite of state reforms to switch to 100% renewable energy.


Fayette County Public Schools (School System)

Fayette County Public Schools has achieved reductions in energy consumption and landfill-bound waste, as well as improvements in overall environmental literacy and student wellness since launching the It’s About Sustainability program in 2010.  Taking a two-pronged engineering and instructional approach to STEM-infused sustainability, the district has embraced a three-pillar model to holistically address environmental literacy, building performance, and student wellness together and leverage students’ passion and leadership in all three areas.


Hammond Junior High Magnet School (Student Leadership)

Hammond’s green school student club has inspired real and lasting change, from initiating a recycling program and growing vegetables in the schoolyard to challenging the school to become more energy efficient.  As a result of the students’ efforts, school administrators are embracing ambitious goals and teachers are seeing their students adopt healthier habits and hold one another accountable for environmentally responsible behavior.


USGBC Louisiana Green Schools Initiative (Transformation)

USGBC Louisiana Green Schools Initiative’s two major programs are showing real results. The chapter’s premier green schools program, Louisiana’s Green School Challenge, has engaged over 100 schools and 15,000 students over the past three years. The program has awarded over $40,000 in cash and prizes to schools, and last fall, in partnership with the Education Market Association, distributed $150,000 worth of new classroom furniture and equipment to Challenge Schools.  In addition, USGBC Louisiana is promoting school energy efficiency through a new benchmarking initiative where chapter volunteers offer Energy Star Portfolio Manager training to K-12 school facility managers and hands on assistance with data entry.


Congratulations again to the winners of the Best of Green Schools 2016, and thank you for your tremendous efforts to advance the green schools movement!