Ed Takes Climate Action On Multiple Fronts

ED is committed to promoting equitable access to healthy, safe, sustainable, 21st century learning environments and environmental sustainability learning. Research has demonstrated that modern, well-maintained facilities with healthy indoor environments yield better student performance and health, higher teacher retention, and reduced absenteeism. School buildings and grounds are an essential element of equitable access to learning resources and high-quality learning environments.

Last month, ED sprung into climate action with new publications, survey results, and an especially successful year of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools submissions.

ED Infrastructure and Sustainability Notes Series Published

ED works to share best practices and connect schools with partnerships and resources through the annual Green Strides Tour, monthly newsletters, annual recognition awards, and now, a new publication series, the ED Infrastructure and Sustainability Notes.

Through the new Notes, ED highlights key concepts and practices of schools across the nation. You can find several Notes on the ED Infrastructure and Sustainability page, under resources. They include: Framework for a Sustainable School, The Education Sector in Climate Action, School Environmental Justice as Social Justice, How School Operations Affect the Environment, and School Grounds and the Outdoors.

National Center for Education Statistics School Pulse Survey Explores School Facilities

Equity, climate, health, and learning considerations are interrelated and on the minds of school leaders. Just recently, the December National Center for Education Statistics School Pulse Survey found that the average age of schools’ primary instructional building is 49 years old. Interestingly, the use of school grounds and outdoor spaces for learning, health, and the planet are growing. In the same survey, 34% of schools responded that they have an outdoor space designed for instruction and 47% of schools responded that they have outdoor space designed for student gardening. The COVID-19 pandemic may have actually given outdoor learning a boost. Furthermore, the pandemic has brought attention the topic of air quality The Pulse Survey found that 39% of schools have a position that serves as air quality coordinator and 60% of schools have designated vehicle loading and unloading area at least 25 feet from building air intakes.

While this data offers a snapshot, it begins to paint a picture of some facilities, health, instructional, and climate considerations that schools are working to solve today.

Green Ribbon Nominations Up by 50 Percent

Relatedly, last month, ED received the annual U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) nominations from states. These schools, districts, early learning centers, and postsecondary institutions are nominated for progress in three broad areas, known as the Pillars: 1) reducing environmental impacts and costs; 2) improving health and wellness; and 3) teaching effective environmental and sustainability education. The 2024 federal selectees will be announced in April and then invited to send representatives to events in Washington, D.C. in July.

With this year’s ED-GRS nominations, we were delighted to find that nominations from states are now up by 50% over 2023. The number of states that participated in 2024 also increased by 33% over last year. These growing numbers speak to the number of schools engaging in whole school sustainability efforts.

If you haven’t already, now is a great time to sign up for the monthly ED Infrastructure and Sustainability News, where ED shares the latest school climate, sustainability, and infrastructure related announcements, including funding and webinars from across the federal government and other partners.

Stay tuned in the ED Infrastructure and Sustainability News throughout the coming year for additional publications and activities that disseminate critical information on these topics, honor schools’ hard-fought gains, and inspire additional achievements across the country.