WASHINGTON – This week, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Congressman Raúl Grijalva (AZ-07) and Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), introduced the bicameral Green Ribbon Act, legislation to promote environmental education, health and wellness, and sustainability literacy in schools across the United States. The legislation would build upon the ED-Green Ribbon Schools Program, which was established in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Education.

The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) is a public engagement initiative for school sustainability structured as a federal recognition award. ED-GRS celebrates these schools, districts, postsecondary institutions, and early learning centers’ cost-saving, health-promoting, and performance-enhancing sustainability practices by bringing more attention to their work. Since its inception, the program recognized schools excelling in environmental leadership, health and wellness, and sustainability literacy. With over 700 schools awarded, including more than 40% from resource-constrained areas, the program incentivizes the adoption of environmentally friendly practices within the national education system.

“Making long-term investments in building a cleaner, healthier future now is more critical than ever. Since 2013, 20 Connecticut schools have been recognized as Green Ribbon Schools for their leadership in green practices and initiatives. So many schools in our communities are dedicated to implementing and maintaining school sustainability efforts,” said Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05). “Expanding the Green Ribbon Schools program through the Green Ribbon Act would encourage more students, faculty and administrators to begin to incorporate sustainable practices in schools, especially those in underserved communities.”

"We must ensure schools are better able to adopt environmentally friendly practices which will help foster a healthier learning environment for our children," said Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). "This bicameral legislation will expand on the successes of the ED-Green Ribbon Schools Program so more schools, especially those from underserved communities, can provide all students with access to facilities that promote a better environment for health and learning. By recognizing the vital role of sustainability practices and incentivizing schools to adopt environmentally friendly standards, we can help create a greener future for all."

“The Green Ribbon Award currently serves as a popular public engagement initiative for school sustainability and helps to curb climate impacts, however, it’s critical we open this program to additional participants,” said Congressman Raúl Grijalva (AZ-07). “That’s why I’m proud to co-lead the Green Ribbon Act which will extend the current program to other learning institutions like museums and zoos as well as strengthen the pipeline of participation. Together, we can work to improve conservation efforts, support health and wellness and encourage environmental and sustainability literacy at institutions across the country.”

The Green Ribbon Act includes three major components, supported by $10 million in funding, to enhance the impact of this vital program:

  • State Grant Program: This would provide grants to state departments of education, empowering them to increase their capacity to engage eligible entities in the pursuit of becoming green school. Further, it ensures that not less than 40% of funds are dedicated to supporting under-resourced schools, ensuring that all communities have an opportunity to participate in this initiative.
  • Extends Grants to Nonformal Learning Institutions: Extend the program to include awards for nonformal learning institutions (museums, libraries, zoos and aquaria, etc.), with the award program managed by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Experts estimate that more than 70% of all learning takes place in these nonformal learning settings, underscoring the importance of their inclusion in this program.
  • Green Ribbon School Award Program: This would allocate funding to the U.S. Department of Education to provide small, $10,000 honorariums to each winning entity, enabling them to travel to accept the award and/or for use on green school programming. Additionally, funding will support schools operated or funded by the Bureau of Indian Education.
  • Office of School Infrastructure and Sustainability: This would establish an office within the U.S. Department of Education, tasked with providing in-house facilities and sustainability expertise across the department's activities. This office will play a pivotal role in the execution of the Green Ribbon Schools program, further elevating its impact.

“For the past 12 years, schools, districts, and universities have committed time and effort to pursuing the Green Ribbon Schools designation by reducing environmental impact, increasing health and wellness, and teaching their students about sustainability,” said Anisa Heming, Director of the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council. “The Green Ribbon Act recognizes their outstanding efforts and gives this valuable program the resources it needs to expand and succeed.”

“As students grow up in a changing world and climate, we want them to think critically and give them access to as much knowledge as possible, including exposing them to ideas and skills about climate policy, which impacts and interests them. Public schools are perfectly positioned to provide intentional, experiential learning to help students understand the realities of climate change and engage them in solutions. The Green Ribbon Schools Act will help strengthen public schools’ and educators’ ability to do just that: provide students with the hands-on experience they need for a future career, college or life in a world grappling with climate change. This bill will expand the successful Green Ribbon program to increase access and provide needed funding to support schools as they engage students through problem-solving, critical-thinking, teamwork and learning by doing so that they’re directly involved in the process of creating sustainable and healthier schools,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.

“As extreme weather events continue impacting communities across the nation and our students demand leaders take actions to address climate change, the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools program helps promote sustainability, STEM education, health and wellness, and reduction in environmental impacts across schools and school buildings. Thanks to these efforts, students are being prepared with the skills needed to take part in the green jobs revolution and to build stronger, sustainable economies and more active, engaged, and healthy communities. Over the last several years, the National Education Association (NEA) has been proud of many of our members’ schools that were named Green Ribbon Schools award winners, as educators and students have worked together to make their schools and communities more resilient. That is why NEA applauds Rep. Jahana Hayes and Rep. Rau´l M. Grijalva on introducing the Green Ribbon Act, which will allow the Department of Education to continue and expand this important work,” said National Education Association President Becky Pringle.

“In an era of climate misinformation, Green Ribbon schools are doing the crucial work of advancing climate literacy and building the future generation of young conservationists and climate champions,” said Abby Tinsley, Vice President for Conservation Policy at the National Wildlife Federation. “We are grateful for Congresswoman Hayes’ leadership in expanding the reach of the program so that more young people can benefit from sustainable, healthy schools with expanded environmental learning opportunities.”

The legislation is endorsed by the following organizations: American Federation of Teachers, Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council, Campaign for Environmental Literacy, National Education Association, National Wildlife Federation, Action for the Climate Emergency, American Alliance of Museums, American Association for State and Local History, American Institute of Architects, American Public Gardens Association, Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, Association of African American Museums, Association of Science and Technology Centers, Association of Science Museum Directors, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Captain Planet Foundation, EcoRise, Go Green Initiative, Green Schools National Network, Green Schoolyards America, Hip Hop Caucus, International WELL Building Institute, National Center for Science Education, National Indian Education Association, National Science Teaching Association, New Buildings Institute, North American Association for Environmental Education, Parliament of the World's Religions, SEI (Strategic Energy Innovations), State Education and Environment Roundtable, Sunrise Movement, Sustainable Forestry Initiative/Project Learning Tree, 21st Century School Fund, The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, The Wild Center, UndauntedK12, US Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education, Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education, Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation, Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education, Connecticut Green LEAF, Connecticut Outdoor & Environmental Education Association, Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education, Massachusetts Environmental Education Society, New Hampshire Environmental Educators, Pacific Education Institute, Portland State University Digital City Testbed Center, Rhode Island Environmental Education Association, Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, Ten Strands, and White Mountain Nature and Wildlife Center and Connecticut Education Association (CEA).

The full text of the bill can be found here.