Every school in Illinois can start on the path towards a greener, more sustainable future.
Nominated Illinois Green Ribbon Schools demonstrate progress in three pillars.
Reduce Environmental Impact & Costs
Improve Health & Wellness
If a school is nominated at the state level, their application is sent to the national level for potential recognition as a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School.
Illinois Green Ribbon Schools serve as models for integrating environmental sustainability into every aspect of our schools.
2022 Honorees from Illinois
Urban Prairie Waldorf School
This K-8 school on Chicago’s near West Side instills a love of learning and reverence for the world in their students. The curriculum incorporates nature experiences, outdoor movement-based learning, city excursions, and learning by doing. UPWS adopted a Sustainability Charter in 2019 and focused new efforts on reducing the environmental impact and costs of the school’s 70-year-old facility, including retrofitting its lighting to reduce electricity usage, installing its first solar array, and renovating its outdoor spaces for students to play, work, and learn.
Community High School District 99
Located in Downers Grove, D99 immerses students in a culture of sustainability and well-being. D99 challenges students in and outside of class to develop creative solutions for current environmental issues, and provides opportunities to conduct cutting-edge ecological research alongside professionals. Students also direct a variety of their own clubs and projects, taking the initiative to promote sustainability and raise money for local non-profits. D99 signed new energy contracts in 2020 to power 100% of the school building's electricity usage with wind energy.
Located in Evanston, Northwestern University serves as a leader in sustainability in on-site renewables, student engagement, and curriculum. With three solar arrays on campus, geothermal in multiple buildings, and a decreasing EUI while the campus expands, there is a large presence in sustainability in the built environment. Students engage in sustainability through the dining hall reusables program, Earth Month celebration activities, and increased biking on campus.
Frequently Asked Questions
Joseph Sears School has developed their school-wide waste-reduction program for over a decade, including recycling and composting throughout the school. They also used an outdoor classroom garden and introduced structured time for mindfulness and movement for both students and staff.
CLC's campus served as a “living laboratory” for sustainability; students and community members used the sustainable building practices and opportunities to experience wellness as learning opportunities. Their Climate Action Plan set goals for the college to reduce its greenhouse gases (GHGs), with the ultimate goal of GHG neutrality by the year 2042. CLC saved energy throughout campus, including in the Science and Engineering Building, which had the most green building points of any new construction project in the state of Illinois.
At Meadowview, the students served as the leaders in the Woodland Project, not only learning about but also actively maintaining the health of Meadowview's outdoor woodland classroom in collaboration with the Lake County Forest Preserve. Students also facilitated the recycling program and participate in community volunteer-led enrichment programs related to sustainability, health, and wellness.
Bloomington Public Schools implemented a cafeteria composting and recycling initiative, donating any unopened or uneaten food to local food pantries, reducing dumpster sizes by half. They also increased sustainable kitchen practices, saving each school approximately $4,700 per year by switching to reusable trays and silverware. Students earn rewards through the recycling and composting program by properly instructing their peers and being conscious of food waste.
Loyola University Chicago has made a commitment to address climate change and the associated disruptions to natural and social infrastructure and systems as a key aspect of their mission of social justice. Their commitment through sustainability is built into the campus infrastructure, academic programs and curricula, and organization within the student community.
Monroe's decades-old Living Classroom Learning Lab focused on teaching students about the interdependence between humans and nature and each individual's responsibility to be a good steward of the environment. The Living Classroom included prairie, a butterfly garden, Japanese garden, vegetable garden, pond, and bee habitat.
In every class, Southside asked students to self-assess how they did in terms of “respecting themselves, respecting others, and respecting the environment.” Various classes used and helped maintain the lawn, plants, and landscaping. Students and teachers also take time for mindfulness three times a day, which students have adopted as a coping mechanism or preferred reinforcer.
Wolcott added solar panels and a community garden to its LEED Gold certified facility, making the school more sustainable and adding to the sustainability education opportunities for students. The curriculum also includes other green technologies, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and skills for maintaining health in college and beyond.
UIC made notable progress in their Climate Commitments to be a Carbon Neutral, Zero Waste, Net Zero Water, and Biodiverse University. UIC has been a certified Tree Campus USA since 2011 and in 2017 became the first official Bee Campus USA in Illinois. Funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the OS and Fed Ex volunteers planted a 2,000 square foot replication of an Illinois native prairie on UIC’s west campus, and there are several gardens that produce food for educational purposes.
Maercker School promotes energy for a diverse population through the afterschool Ecology Club, Garden Club and STEM Club, as well as a STEM class where all students participate in a curriculum promoting environmental literacy. The Ecology Club educates students on recycling, composts lunchroom waste every day, and collects products for reuse. The school has received grants to continue its environmental literacy program through community participation. Maercker School also tracks its energy usage, including energy collected by its four solar panels.
Chiaravalle is dedicated to upholding the Montessori philosophy of being stewards of the Earth. They focus on educating students to understand the related science and moral responsibility of sustainability, as well as its importance for a healthy and happy lifestyle. The North Wing is the first LEED Platinum Montessori school addition in the U.S. and has allowed Chiaravalle to significantly reduce energy consumption, with geothermal heating and cooling, photovoltaics and a green roof.
River Trails students used the school building itself as a teacher in energy consumption, making changes to parameters such as CO2 and temperature levels and studying the effects in real time using data from a solar panel and a weather station. They also exercised frequently, running more than two miles a week in the outdoor fields. The school's Green Schools Committee engaged the broader community in green efforts with events including building a community garden and building a rain barrel irrigation and storm water diversion system.
For its 3- to 6-year-old students, Woodland Primary focused on introducing the idea of what it means to be "green" through examples and hands-on activities. The school also introduced “Yoga in the Classroom” as a way for students to take “brain breaks” during the day, and provides the opportunity for parents and students to do yoga together at Open House nights, encouraging the extension of healthy habits into the home. Woodland Primary was also the first school in the state of Illinois to receive the LEED Silver Rating Certification for Existing Buildings.
AGC transformed their asphalt parking lot into an organic garden that students work on throughout the year, tending the school chickens, working with local farmers to choose seeds in winter and planting in spring. AGC served all-organic meals and students separate their compost, recycling and landfill waste after. Each day, students participated in a 40-minute Sustainability and Wellness class highlighting nutrition, health and environmental sustainability as ways of understanding the world.
The Waters School Ecology Program, focused on teaching every student how to live within the cycles and limits of the natural world, based around resource conservation, field ecology and community gardens. Students gained a sense of personal responsibility and the power of their own voices. Waters also worked on improving energy efficiency in the building through solar panels and converting light fixtures.
PCCS strove to nurture a generation of youth who can work toward a future where caring for the earth is innate and essential. They held monthly Green Challenges and engaged students in growing organic crops in classroom gardens and the Learning Farm. The PCCS campus also featured the first LEED certified school building in Illinois, with native landscaping, natural ventilation and lighting, solar panels, a wind turbine, and more.
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