The Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced the 2014 “Best of Green Schools” recipients. Recognition includes 10 individuals, institutions, projects and events representing the best environmental efforts in schools across the country this year. The list highlights the national leaders and innovators in school sustainability for the year.
“Selecting the Best of Green Schools honorees is an exciting and challenging process. There are so many fantastic examples of efforts being made in communities large and small,” said Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools. “Some of the honorees go about their work quietly, others are in public positions and have attention from a national audience. Every one of the honorees is a leader, taking risks, setting an example for others, innovating and diligently pursuing a world in which every student attends a green school within this generation.”
•K-12 School – The Monarch School (Houston, Texas): Since its founding in 1997, The Monarch School’s environmental education program has offered students with special needs the opportunity to learn about the environment on campus and to share that knowledge with their families and the greater Houston community.
•Higher Education Institution – Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, Mich.): Over the past two decades, the Western Michigan University (WMU) community has collectively served as a leader in sustainability through energy conservation efforts, recycling and waste reduction programs and by facilitating cooperative research into green manufacturing practices.
•Ambassador – Mark Swiger (Wheeling, W.Va.): Mark Swiger is a teacher in Marshall County Schools. Active locally, statewide and nationally, Mark was behind the movement in his county school system to work toward greener building and sustainable operations. Mark partners with the entrepreneurial program at a local university to encourage the initiation of green businesses.
•Policy Maker – Representative Brenda Gilmore (Nashville, Tenn.): As the chair and founder of the Tennessee Green Schools Caucus, Representative Gilmore has worked with colleagues within Tennessee and across state lines to promote activities that improve the places where our children learn. In 2014, Representative Gilmore championed legislation that encourages school districts to utilize less toxic products and schedule all cleaning and maintenance acts at times that limit student and staff exposure to health harming chemicals.
•Student Leadership – Dunloggin Middle School Oyster Gardeners (Ellicott City, Md.): For the past three years, Dunloggin Middle School Oyster Gardeners have cared for and relocated nearly 12,000 oyster spat as part of an initiative to help clean the Chesapeake Bay. Each year since its inception, the oyster gardening group has grown in size and increased the total amount of oyster spat they have relocated in the bay.
•Business Leadership – Bristol-Myers Squibb (New York, N.Y.): Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) established a senior level Sustainability Council in New Jersey in 2009. Since the summer of 2013, BMS has funded a Green Schools Fellow at New Jersey School Boards Association, a position that is not only transforming how school board members view their responsibilities but also changing how other School Board Associations approach green schools education.
•Collaboration – University at Buffalo, the State University of New York (Buffalo, N.Y.): In partnership with the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York (SUNY-Buffalo) worked to convene over 150 organizations and more than 300 members of the general public in three region-wide Environmental Congresses to create “Our Shared Agenda for Action,” a blueprint for action on regional environmental issues.
•Transformation – Green Bronx Machine (South Bronx, New York, N.Y.): Green Bronx Machine is transforming an unused library in a 100+ year-old school building into the first ever Health, Wellness and Biodiversity Center in the South Bronx—one of America’s poorest Congressional Districts.
•Community Event – Learning Gate Community School (Lutz, Fla.): EcoFest 2014—presented by Learning Gate Community School in conjunction with the City of Tampa and USF Patel College of Global Sustainability—drew more than 4,500 participants in April of 2014.
•Moment for the Movement – Annie Donnelly (West Palm Beach, Fla.): Annie recently authored a children’s book titled Willow Watts and the Green School Wish. Her story teaches children about a wide range of sustainability measures, from vegetable gardens, to clean construction, to energy efficient heating and cooling. The book empowers children to take action and make a difference in their communities.