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The Top Green School Champions of 2024

Mar 8, 2024 | Public | 0 comments

The U.S. Green Building Council’s Center for Green Schools announced the winners of the 2024 Best of Green Schools Awards, an annual recognition in collaboration with the Green Schools National Network. The awards, announced at the 2024 Green Schools Conference in Santa Fe, N.M., honor and recognize schools, districts, individuals, lawmakers, and others active in advancing green schools nationwide.

Anisa Heming, director at the Center for Green Schools, said, “Whether it’s a reduction in emissions or waste, the installation of a new garden or solar panels, or drastic improvements in air quality, the accomplishments made in our schools would not be possible without the steadfast dedication and collective action of those we celebrate today.”

This year’s awardees across 10 categories are:

K-12 School:

  • St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Mass., adopted a sustainability strategic plan in 2015 and has boldly progressed towards those commitments. The school’s efforts include reducing waste and water consumption by a significant margin, as well as eliminating its carbon emissions from electricity consumption by entering into a green power contract and divesting from fossil fuels. In 2020, St. Mark’s created a climate action plan to reduce carbon emissions even further by 2025 and achieved those goals two years early.

School System:

  • Boston Public Schools has invested in numerous sustainability practices and programs that have created healthier learning environments and equipped its students with the knowledge and tools to create more sustainable, environmentally conscious communities. The district has improved numerous areas, including indoor air quality and drinking water access, and has made significant efficiency upgrades.

School District Champion:

  • Lisa Randall served as sustainability program coordinator for Santa Fe Public Schools for 13 years and was the founding coordinator of the school district’s sustainability program. She led the district to generate 22% of its electricity from solar power and reduce water use by 52%, electricity use by 11%, and natural gas use by 15%. Though now retired, Randall’s work continues to have a significant impact on students, teachers, and the district as a whole.

Policy Maker:

  • U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT) and U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) introduced the Green Ribbon Act, which will strengthen and expand the Green Ribbon Schools program at the U.S. Department of Education. If passed, the program will provide resources to states so that they can encourage more schools to strive for and achieve the award.

Ambassador:

  • Tatjana Rebelle empowers K-12 schools to adopt dynamic sustainability practices in Indiana through numerous funding initiatives. These grants have allowed schools to add greener features to the physical environment, as well as sustainability lessons to the curriculums for their students. Rebelle is the director of Equitable Initiatives for Earth Charter Indiana and ECI’s Indiana Thriving Schools Challenge, and the schools that have benefited from their work have been able to make sustainability central in both the day-to-day operations of the school and their students’ lives.

Michelle Curreri Collaborator Award:

  • Michelle Curreri was a long-time public servant in the EPA’s Indoor Environments Division who worked collaboratively to improve the health of the nation’s school environments. California’s Climate Ready Schools Coalition continues that work by ensuring that the buildings and sites of public schools are developed with sustainability and resilience to protect students as the climate continues to change rapidly. The statewide coalition includes leaders in education, climate, health, youth, labor, civil rights, business, and other organizations.

Student Leader:

  • Alex Wagonfeld from Nueva School in California’s Bay Area leads both the environmental club and the Nueva Fossil Fuel Divestment Team, motivating and inspiring fellow students to engage in environmental and sustainability initiatives. In his role leading the divestment team, he researched and proposed alternative investment strategies and collaborated with the school’s endowment committee and other leaders to secure a successful commitment to divest from fossil fuels over a five-year period. Wagonfeld activity extends beyond just the four walls of his school, as he engages and encourages other California and national high school communities to divest from oil and adopt more environmentally conscious practices.

K-12 Educator: 

  • Amanda Talantis was recently named the Alabama District 1 Secondary Teacher of the Year and empowers her students and colleagues to create more sustainable and green environments through her courses on Ecotourism and Sustainability. She teaches at Gulf Shores High School, but her reach extends beyond the classroom, as she collaborates with other departments, community partners, and school districts to align sustainability projects and initiatives.

Business Leader:

  • Arrowstreet designs PK-12 schools that advance sustainability, equity, and wellness. Its portfolio includes over 3 million square feet of net-zero buildings, including the largest net zero and first LEEDv4 Platinum school in the United States.

Moment for the Movement: 

  • The U.S. Department of Energy‘s new school-focused programs, like the Healthy and Efficient Schools program and the Renew America’s Schools grants, have given renewed visibility to the role that schools play in ensuring a clean energy future and promoting healthy communities. In the past year, the advocates that have driven progress with schools on these topics for years have felt the momentum shift, signaling an inflection point in the green schools movement.

ALSO READ: A Sustainable Approach to School Infrastructure Upgrades

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