The U.S. Department of Education has launched the Green Ribbon Schools program to recognize schools across the country that have taken strides in greening their curricula, buildings, school grounds, and building operations.

Under the program, awards will be given the schools that best exemplify the transition to a sustainable economy. According to the Department of Education, the awards will be voluntary and national and will stress innovation in environmental curriculum development, teacher training, facilities management, operations, and community engagement. The program is modeled on the Blue Ribbon Schools program, which recognizes schools whose student bodies have displayed high academic achievement or improvement.

According to the Department of Education, smarter energy management in schools could reduce consumption by as much as 25 percent and cut school energy costs nationally by more than $1 billion annually.

"In a time when budgets are tight, the Department of Education is encouraging schools to engage in a creative win-win scenario: cutting expenses while using the school facilities as dynamic learning labs for students," says Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. "This federal initiative supports the work of the National Wildlife Federation, which has helped more than 4,000 schools go green over the last 15 years."

The program’s adoption is the result of work by the Campaign for Environmental Literacy and a steering committee that included the Earth Day Network, National Wildlife Federations, and the USGBC.