U.S. Department of Education GREEN RIBBON SCHOOLS Lead the Way on Healthy, Sustainable Infrastructure and Environmental Learning

Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced the 2024 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees. Across the country 41 schools, 10 districts, one early learning center, and three postsecondary institutions were named. School systems across the U.S. are implementing environmental education standards, flipping the switch on solar and geothermal installations, cutting ribbons on electric buses, and collaborating with their communities to ensure healthy learning environments where students and educators can thrive.

This year, half of honorees are located in underserved communities. Any school can take sustainability into account in their daily operations, wellness programs, and learning programs. Could your school be the next U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School? Here are a few highlights from the 2024 honorees:

Rio School District; Oxnard, California

The Rio School District (Rio) serves over 5,000 students, 70% of whom qualify for free and reduced price lunch. The district’s interdisciplinary approach emphasizes hands-on, experiential learning, integrating field trips and place-based learning to deepen students’ understanding of local ecosystems and inspire sustainable practices. In 2021, the district established the Rio Regenerative Farm to provide all Rio students with the essential knowledge, skills, and abilities to build a healthy and resilient environment, food system, and community. Schools scratch-cook all meals and feature plant-based entrees on “Meatless Mondays.” Rio staff works closely to ensure every facility and classroom is safe and conducive to learning and has implemented practices including maximizing natural light, implementing an IPM program, using greener custodial cleaning supplies, and installing HVAC systems with built-in HEPA air filters and ionizers.

Cuba Independent School District; Cuba, New Mexico

Cuba Independent School District (CISD) serves a student population of rural and Indigenous communities and is deeply committed to fostering a sustainable and healthy environment for students and staff while delivering effective social emotional, environmental, and sustainability education. Cuba has implemented in-house food growing operations, efficient lighting and HVAC systems, rainwater catchment in their agriculture program, and encourages teachers and students to walk or take public transportation to campus. CISD’s districtwide compost system is a hands-on way for students to learn. CISD has multiple outdoor classrooms and nature trails to connect students with the environment, promote ecological learning, and provide teachers with alternative environments for instruction. The curriculum integrates environmental topics across subjects and connects to the local agrarian communities, traditional Navajo practices, and ensures that all students graduate with a deep appreciation for the environment and the knowledge and skills needed to address pressing environmental issues.

Dommerich Elementary School; Maitland, Florida

Dommerich Elementary School teaches behaviors that help promote a sustainable culture in students and the local community. Throughout the year, classes visit the school garden and outdoor spaces, which feature a blend of annual fruits and vegetables and plants for local pollinator species. Students at all grade levels participate in interactive lessons such as bird habitat building, water usage tracking, solar oven construction, and Mangrove ecosystems, all designed to instill a passion for conservation. The school uses energy efficient equipment, LED lighting, classroom energy monitors, and low-flow water fixtures that integrate students’ lessons into the classrooms.

Read about each of the 2024 ED-GRS Honorees in the Highlights Report. To learn more about U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools, visit the ED-GRS website. If you are inspired to make your own school more sustainable, visit ED’s Green Strides School Sustainability Resource Hub and sign up for the monthly ED Infrastructure and Sustainability News to receive updates on school sustainability resources, webinars, stories, and events.