20 Illinois Schools Recognized for their Sustainability Projects

Since October 2023, participating schools across Illinois have been hard at work identifying, planning, and implementing low-to-no cost sustainability projects for their schools and communities through the Illinois Green Schools Project. As the school year wraps up, we want to congratulate everyone who participated and reflect on the achievements and impact of their work.  

Nearly 1,900 students took part in sustainability initiatives this school year through the Illinois Green School Project—which connected 70 educators with 25 professional mentors from our green building community. Students from kindergarten through high school planned and executed green programs that ranged from waste reduction and composting, water management, and solar energy initiatives. Through their efforts, students learned how to collaborate and engage with their peers, school administrators, and communities. To learn more about this year’s cohort and each school’s project, check out the individual school project profiles! 

We had 20 schools across the state submit their projects for review, based on criteria like project impact, student leadership, and engagement with the community. Submissions were reviewed by a group of local volunteers who have expertise in sustainability. For exemplary work implementing sustainable practices at their schools, Illinois Green would like to congratulate our nine 2023-2024 award winners in the Illinois Green Schools Project. Scroll down to see the award winners and their project impact.  

These schools were honored at the Illinois Green Schools Project Celebration on May 22, which featured remarks from Sean Moran, Illinois Green board member and Construction Sustainability Director at Clayco. Watch the full event recording here.  


2023-24 Illinois Green Schools Project
Award Winners

1st Place Elementary School

Jovita Idár Elementary School — Chicago, IL | "Seeds of Change Thrive in Concrete"

Jovita Idár Elementary students implemented a composting and waste reduction program with Urban Canopy, involving students and staff in the collection and education efforts around the work. This initiative focused on composting organic waste, developing a hydroponic produce garden, and reducing single-use plastic in the school.

1st Place Middle School

Decatur Classical School — Chicago, IL | "Sprouting Green"

Decatur Classical School is addressing sustainability holistically and on a large scale. This was the first year of their multi-year plan to incorporate sustainability curriculum and action into their school across grade levels, including students in the planning and implementation of large scale, school-wide goals.

1st Place High School

Libertyville High School — Libertyville, IL | "Sustainable Cafeteria"

Over the past year, the school conducted a trash audit to quantify our waste and demonstrated to the group that recycling, composting, and promoting reusable containers had the greatest environmental impact. Students then pivoted to creating ideas to change school culture and student behavior to promote pro-social waste stream management.

Path to Net Zero Waste Award

Marion High School — Marion, IL | "Make MHS Green"

In order to reduce waste, freshman Harlan Whiteford started a recycling program by retrieved the recycling from each classroom and personally delivering it to Progress Port Recycling Center. He then expanded his project to include two other student collectors—sophomore Shelby Rice and freshman Zoe Graham—servicing ten classrooms and diverting a trash bag worth of recycling from the landfill on a weekly basis.

Path to Net Zero Water Award

Grace Holistic Center for Education — Yorkville, IL | "Water Sustainability"

Students across every grade level engaged in diverse water sustainability lessons covering history, infrastructure, pollution, supply and demand, and more. To apply the principles they learned, they conducted a school-wide water usage audit, identified and assisted with the repair of a sink leak and the installation of a water bottle filling station, and conducted water audits with their families at home.  

Path to Net Zero Energy Award

Urbana High School — Urbana, IL | "Energizing the Engineering Club"

Understanding that equipping a school with a solar array is a lengthy and expensive process, the Urbana High School Green Team focused their year’s work on collecting information and educating students and staff on their school’s energy usage and the potential benefits of renewable energy. They performed an audit of their engineering lab classroom and shared their findings through hands-on demonstrations with a solar-powered charging station.

Rookie of the Year Award

St. Paul Lutheran School - Austin — Chicago, IL | "Food, Nutrition, Community!"

Partnering with the local Chicago Park District and high school apprentices from the After School Matters AfriCaribbean Arts Connections program, St. Paul adopted a previously neglected community garden at Columbus Park in South Austin and developed a small teaching garden on their school grounds.  The culmination of this year’s work was a successful garden clean-up day  to transform the space and make it once again beautiful, functional, and nutritional.   

Engagement Award

Carl von Linné Elementary School — Chicago, IL | "Composting Lions/Liones de Compostaje"

The Linné Lions reinstated their composing program following a pandemic hiatus with new guides and educational resources. The school welcomed over 50 migrant families throughout the school year and needed to ensure the information could be effectively shared with new students that only spoke Spanish.

Judges' Choice Award

Uplift Community High School — Chicago, IL | "Plant Team"

Uplift’s green team worked to green their school through gardening and increasing the presence of plants throughout the building. They inventoried plants, took orders, grew various herb species, and delivered them to classrooms, including a special activity for Mother's Day and an Earth Day seed ball-making session. 

2024-2025 Illinois Green Schools Project Registration will be open from _

The 4th year of the program will kick off in October 2023 and run through the end of May 2024. Sign up for our green schools newsletter to receive updates on the program as well as information about school sustainability related webinars and grant opportunities!

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