The USGBC’s Center for Green Schools, working together with its founding sponsor, United Technologies Corp., has announced its inaugural "Best of Green Schools 2011" list. The awards recognize the efforts of cities, states, schools, school districts, policy makers, and individuals to conserve energy and green our nation’s educational institutions. Here are the winners:
Best Moment for the Movement: U.S. Department of Education, Green Ribbon Schools
The first federal initiative to broach issues of health, the environment, and education, this award program recognizes schools with energy-saving sustainable spaces and environmental awareness education. So far, 33 states, Washington, D.C., and the Bureau of Indian Education have announced that they will nominate schools for the award.
Best Region: Sacramento, Calif., area
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has brought mayors and school superintendents from around the Northern California region together to create a $100 million revolving loan fund for green-school retrofits. Sacramento has also signed on to the Better Buildings Challenge, President Obama’s initiative to make commercial buildings 20 percent more energy-efficient by 2020.
Best State: Ohio
With 315 LEED-registered and -certified projects, including 19 schools that registered in 2011, Ohio has more green projects under way than any other state, according to the USGBC. Over the next 40 years, Ohio schools will recoup more than 40 percent of its construction costs on energy savings alone.
Best City: Philadelphia
Philadelphia has the eighth-largest school district in the country, with 291 public schools. The district has taken a step toward greening all of them by mandating that all new constructing projects must achieve at least LEED Silver certification.
Best School: Lake Mills Middle School in Lake Mills, Wis.
In March, 2011, the school became the first public school in the country to achieve LEED Platinum certification. The school has shifted its heating and cooling system from gas to electric, utilizing a geothermal system that has contributed to $85,000 in annual energy savings.
Best High Ed Innovator: University of Texas at Dallas
The Student Services Building, which houses 14 departments under one roof, features unique terra-cotta shades on its exterior that provide an energy-efficient cooling strategy. With annual electrical savings of $600,000, the building has a 63 percent lower operating cost than the average building on campus.
Best Collaborators: Kentucky Representatives Jim DeCesare (R) and Mary Lou Marzian (D)
This bipartisan team of Kentucky representatives has worked with colleagues in the Kentucky General Assembly to adopt resolutions supporting green schools.
Best Convener: Boston
In September 2011, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino hosted the Research Summit on Childhood Health and School Buildings, convening a team of researchers to explore the relationship between the school facilities and the health of their students. Boston’s public school district also is home to one of the first Center for Green Schools Fellows, who work with faculty, administration, facilities staff, and students to coordinate districtwide sustainability plans.
Best Policy Makers: The District of Columbia City Council
The District of Columbia City Council’s 2011 updates to the 2010 Healthy Schools Act made the city the first participant in the Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools program. The policy also required full disclosure of environmental testing results.
Best K-12 Innovation: Public–Private partnership in Illinois
A 2009 public–private initiative born in the Illinois General Assembly set the goal of greening three of the state’s public schools. It has resulted in one, Adlai E. Stevenson High School, becoming the first public high school in the nation to receive LEED certification for Existing Buildings.
For more information on each of this year's winners, visit centerforgreenschools.org/bestof2011.