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Federal Initiative Will Honor 'Green Ribbon' Schools

The U.S. Department of Education plans to recognize schools deemed exemplary in teaching environmental literacy as well as embracing energy efficiency and sustainability in their building operations and school grounds, the federal agency announced today.

The Green Ribbon Schools program (echoing, of course, the Blue Ribbon Schools program) is being billed as an effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, and prepare students for jobs in fields that provide clean energy solutions.

"Environmental literacy is an important part of a well-rounded, world-class education," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a press release. "Through the Green Ribbon Schools program, we'll be holding up schools that are leading the way in teaching science in ways that show students the importance of developing clean energy sources and sustainable solutions for the environment."

The program was announced at a tree-planting ceremony at the Education Department headquarters in Washington. The application for the program will be released later this year, and the first group of Green Ribbon Schools will be announced in 2012.

The effort was originally conceived the Campaign for Environmental Literacy, the Earth Day Network, the National Wildlife Federation, and the U.S. Green Building Council, according to a separate press release jointly issued by those groups.

"Today's event marks a significant milestone in the green school movement," Jim Elder, the director of the Campaign for Environmental Literacy, said in that release. "Green Ribbon is more than just another award program. It puts the weight of the U.S. Department of Education behind a comprehensive vision for green schools, and with a strong push from everyone involved, will significantly accelerate the adoption rate of green school practices among schools across the country."

He added: "It sets a very high bar for schools to aim for, while definitively answering the question: What exactly is a green school?"

The environmental organizations also suggest that "greening" school facilities will save money.

"In a time when budgets are tight, the Department of Education is encouraging schools to engage in a creative win-win scenario," said Larry Schweiger, the president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, "cutting expenses while using the school facilities as dynamic learning labs for students."

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