Skip to main content
Official State of Iowa Website Here is how you know

Green Ribbon Schools


On this page...

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) is a public engagement initiative structured as a federal recognition award for school sustainability. It is intended to promote state and local collaboration regarding school facilities, health, and environmental education. By highlighting schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions’ cost-saving, health promoting, and performance-enhancing sustainability practices, ED-GRS celebrates these schools and brings more attention to their work. The schools are invited to a fall ceremony in Washington, D.C. where they receive a sustainable plaque; are the subject of media attention; and have their efforts celebrated. Other schools, in turn, learn about and adopt their practices.

The ED-GRS award recognizes schools, districts, and Higher Education (IHEs) that show progress in each of the three pillars and their corresponding elements :

  1. Reducing environmental impact and costs; 
  2. Improving the health and wellness of students and staff; and
  3. Offering effective environmental and sustainability education.


Applications are submitted in January or February of each year to the Iowa Department of Education (Department). The Department reviews applications based on the applicant’s demonstrated progress towards the goals of each of the three pillars. Applications demonstrating exemplary achievement in all three pillars and every element are ranked highest.

The FY24 application will be available in this location in the fall of 2023. 

Application Resources

Pillars and Elements

I. Reduced Environmental Impact and Costs

  • Reduced or eliminated greenhouse gas emissions, using an energy audit or emissions inventory and reduction plan, cost-effective energy efficiency improvements, conservation measures, and/or  and on-site renewable energy and/or purchase of green power;
  • Improved water quality, efficiency, and conservation;
  • Reduced solid and hazardous waste production through increased recycling and composting, reduced consumption, and improved management, reduction, or elimination of hazardous waste; and
  • Expanded use of alternative transportation, through active promotion of locally-available, energy-efficient options and implementation of alternative transportation supportive projects and policies.

II. Improved Health and Wellness

III. Effective Environmental and Sustainability Education

  • Interdisciplinary learning about the key relationships between dynamic environmental, energy and human systems;
  • Use of the environment and sustainability to develop STEM content knowledge and thinking skills to prepare graduates for the 21st century technology-driven economy; and
  • Development of civic engagement knowledge and skills and students' application of such knowledge and skills to address sustainability issues in their community.

Green Strides - green schools resources

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools - lots of detailed information about the program

Highlights from Past Honorees - narratives from past award winners

General Timeline

See yearly application for specific deadlines.

Iowa generally submits their nominees to U.S. Department of Education (USDE) in February of each year. Iowa specific deadlines are set each year to allow time to review, select, and submit nominees to the USDE. The U.S. Secretary of Education announces national honorees on Earth Day, April 22 and honors them at a ceremony in Washington, DC in the summer or fall.

Past Iowa Honorees

2019 - Davenport Community School District, Davenport

2019 - Sioux City Community School District, Sioux City

2018 - St. Columbkille Elementary School, Dubuque

2017 - Iowa Lakes Community College, Estherville

2016 - Spalding Park Elementary School, Sioux City

2016 - Hawkeye Community College, Waterloo

2015 - Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids

2013 - Starmont Community School, Arlington

2013 - Des Moines Independent Community School District, Des Moines

2012 - Des Moines Central Campus High School, Des Moines