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Green Ribbon Schools


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The aim of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) is to inspire schools, districts and Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) to strive for 21st century excellence, by highlighting exemplary practices and resources that all can employ. The ED-GRS award recognizes schools, districts, and IHEs that:

  1. Reduce environmental impact and costs;
  2. Improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and
  3. Provide effective environmental and sustainability education.

The award is a tool to encourage state education agencies, stakeholders and higher education officials to consider matters of facilities, health and environment comprehensively and in coordination with state health, environment and energy agency counterparts. Unique about the award is that, in order to be selected for federal recognition, schools, districts and postsecondary institutions must be demonstrating progress in all three of the Pillars, not just one area.

Combined progress in ALL three of these areas, known as Pillars, serves as the basis for recognition. Each Pillar is divided into Elements, which provide further guidance on each of the three main areas. ED-GRS aligns with the Department’s cross-cutting goals for education, including improving student, staff, and facility performance and increasing efficiency at the federal, state, and local levels. At the postsecondary level, these Pillars help to support the goals of reduced college costs, increased completion rates, higher rates of employment, and robust civic skills among graduates. The recognition award is part of a U.S. Department of Education (USED) effort to identify and communicate practices that result in improved student engagement, academic achievement, graduation rates, and workforce preparedness.

Green schools are critical to schools’ fiscal health and our nation's economy. Much needed improvements to school facilities create new jobs and save schools money. They prepare students to participate in the green economy, strengthen the nation's energy security and conserve precious natural resources. Healthy behaviors, environmental education and green facilities are as vital to individual students as they are to the nation. High standards of nutrition, fitness and facility conditions improve student and staff health, attendance and productivity, and enhance achievement and engagement, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Each year, all winning schools are invited to Washington, D.C. for a ceremony to celebrate their success, share information and receive a plaque to commemorate their achievement.

Applications must be submitted to the Iowa Department of Education (IDE) by January 4, 2021. IDE will review applications based on the applicant’s demonstrated progress towards the goals of each of the three pillars. Nominees demonstrating exemplary achievement in all three pillars and every element will be ranked highest. For more information about the program, contact Scott Dryer ( or 515-402-8700) for assistance.


Three applications for the Green Ribbon Schools program are available through the website:

  • Individual School: FY20 Iowa Green Ribbon Schools – School Application
  • District: FY20 Iowa Green Ribbon Schools – District Sustainability Award Application
  • College/University: FY20 Iowa Green Ribbon Schools – College Application Information

To apply for the Green Ribbon Schools recognition award, applicants must be registered on the system. To enhance the security of, all persons requesting access are required to register with the State of Iowa’s Authentication and Authorization System (A&A). If you have an existing A&A account for the Department’s EdPortal, but are not registered as a user on the system, please contact Scott Dryer ( or 515-402-8700) for assistance.


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

  • High standards of coordinated school health, including health, nutrition, and outdoor physical education; health, counseling, and psychological services for both students and staff; family community involvement; and an integrated school environmental health program that considers occupant health and safety in all design, construction, renovation, operations, and maintenance of facilities and grounds.

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.


  • October 2020: The Department opens application to schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions.
  • Fall and winter: Schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions complete and submit applications through
  • January 4, 2021: Deadline for schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions to submit Green Ribbon Schools application through to the Department for nomination.
  • January 2021: The Department convenes review committee to review applications against eligibility requirements and USED criteria.
  • February 1, 2021: Deadline for the Department to nominate schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions to USED to participate in the national competition.
  • Spring: USED announces national awardees.
  • Fall 2021: USED hosts national recognition award ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Past Iowa Honorees

2019 GRS Iowa Honoree – Davenport Community School District

2019 GRS Iowa Honoree – Sioux City Community School District

2018 GRS Iowa Honoree – St. Columbkille Elementary School, Dubuque, Iowa

2017 GRS Iowa Honoree – Iowa Lakes Community College

Previous years honorees are available upon request.

Additional Information



Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on October 01, 2022 at 7:45pm.