Yesterday the U.S. Department of Education announced the creation of the Green Ribbon Schools program to recognize sustainable schools that boast green curricula, buildings, grounds, and overall operations. Beyond encouraging schools to manage their carbon footprints and help kids to graduate as “environmentally literate students” well-versed in science, technology and the environment, the Department of Education hopes this green school program will help the large number of schools hit with budget crunches.

Sustainable schools can cut expenses through energy efficiency and green building updates. Schools spent between $6-8 billion on energy in 2000, and the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that green updates could reduce energy consumption by up to 25 percent, cutting school costs by more than $1 billion annually. Sounds like a win-win-win scenario to us — green schools help the planet, they provide a healthy environment for our kids to learn in, and the education system will end up with more money to help our nation’s kids to grow up to be smart, innovative thinkers.

“No other building type speaks more profoundly to the benefits of green building than the places where our children learn.  Green schools reduce energy consumption, save money and foster healthier learning environments for our children,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, U. S. Green Building Council. “The Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools program is a landmark in progress toward green schools for everyone within this generation, which is the vision for USGBC’s Center for Green Schools.”

The program, modeled after the 30-year-old Blue Ribbon Schools program, which recognizes schools for high academic achievement, was originally conceived by the Campaign for Environmental Literacy, as well as Earth Day Network, National Wildlife Federation and the U.S. Green Building Council. The National Wildlife Federation has already helped more than 4,000 schools go green over the last 15 years. Applications will be available for sustainable schools later this year, and the first ever Green Ribbon School awards will be announced in 2012.

Lead Image © frankjuarez