39 Illinois Schools Recognized for their Sustainability Projects

Since October 2022, 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 comes to a close, we want to thank all who were involved and reflect on the achievements and impact of your work.

Nearly 1,800 students were engaged in sustainability this year through the Illinois Green Schools Project - which connected 170 educators with nearly 50 mentors from our green building community. Students from kindergarten to high school created projects that ranged from shoreline restoration and native plant initiatives to recycling and composting campaigns. To learn more about this year’s cohort and each school's projects, check out each school's project profile!

We had 31 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 2022-23 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 17, which featured a special congratulations from Governor J.B. Pritzker. Watch the full event recording.

2022-23 Illinois Green Schools Project
Award Winners

The Daisy Girl Scout Troop in the Pleasantdale community constructed a free seed library.
The Daisy Girl Scout Troop in the Pleasantdale community constructed a free seed library.

1st Place Elementary School

Pleasantdale Elementary School — Milledgeville, IL | "Zeroing in on Closing the Loop"

Pleasantdale Elementary students learned about the importance of native plants and how to compost their snack food scraps. The school year’s project involved collecting and distributing native plant seeds and building an educational “Seed Library” in the Pleasantdale Butterfly Garden.

1st Place Middle School

Immaculate Conception St. Joseph — Chicago, IL | "Zero Waste Lunch"

Immaculate Conception St. Joseph School started a new club — the Green Dolphins — that worked on building green habits and developing a zero waste lunch. Working with their mentor, Amreh Hopkins, and supported by an Illinois Green Schools Project mini grant, the students and staff champions built new waste stations and ran an awareness campaign for composting and lunch choices.

Student ambassadors went door-to-door to each classroom to collect IT equpment for an electronic recycling drive.

1st Place High School

Carmel Catholic High School — Mundelein, IL | "Responsible School Waste Plan"

Carmel Catholic High School embarked on a plan to responsibly reduce waste generated by students, teachers, and faculty. This program focused on cutting down cafeteria waste, classroom waste, and electronic waste. As the initiatives unfolded, the community suggested additional programs which have since been implemented. The program involved two classes: a dual credit environmental science class and a dual credit human ecological footprint class, both of which are offered for juniors and seniors.

Path to Net Zero Waste Award

Half Day School — Lincolnshire, IL | "Zero Waste Lunchroom Challenge"

Half Day School’s composting program encourages students and faculty to divert food scraps and other organic materials from landfills. The school’s Green Team, a group of students in grades 3-5 that meets weekly to tackle environmental issues, implemented a "Waste Free Lunch" raffle contest which challenged students to be more aware of their impact on the environment while also learning about recycling, composting, and zero waste.

Path to Net Zero Water Award

York Community High School — Elmhurst, IL | "Exploring Water Quality"

York Community High School's project spanned the entire school year, majority-led by 25 students in Eco Club. They learned about water quality, did a school water audit, participated in various local events to improve water quality, and committed to educating the community about water quality.

Path to Net Zero Energy Award

Grace Holistic Center for Education — Yorkville, IL | "Solar Powered"

Students at Grace Holistic Center for Education built solar charging stations for their classrooms, which required them to learn how to read, monitor, and understand energy usage through Multimeters and Kilowatts Meters. The solar charging stations were used to power Chromebooks, which helped reduce costs, save energy, and improve air quality in the classrooms.

Creative Use of Resources Award

Whittier Elementary School — Downers Grove, IL | "Lunchroom Waste Audit"

Whittier's 5th grade classes participated in a lunchroom waste audit. The kids sorted all the lunchroom garbage into categories and weighed it. They discussed what was wasted, potential recycling options and ways to improve. The activity was led by the Scarce nonprofit organization.

Engagement Award

Marion High School — Marion, IL | "Human Impacts on Ecosystems in Southern Illinois"

The Marion Green Team set out to create a new Biology unit on environmental justice, centered around the land contamination history of a local wildlife refuge, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, which is being monitored and restored by the EPA under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Marion wanted to utilize the natural space as a learning lab for understanding ecosystems and human impacts through development of scientific method, scientific reading and research, and GIS analysis.

Judges' Choice Award

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

Uplift's project follows up on a project from last year in which Environmental Science students documented that when students plant and nurture seeds to grow ("plant parenthood"), they feel better about their classroom. This year's ES students produced a video on why plant stewardship is important and how to plant and nurture seeds, and in cooperation with cluster students, coached other students in the school through a planting process. They also developed a stewardship pledge for students and staff as part of a stewardship badging process.

2023-2024 Illinois Green Schools Project Registration will be open from August 16 - September 29

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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