Illinois Green Ribbon Schools Nominees Announced
Three K-12 schools and one university receive state recognition for their conservation efforts

CHICAGO – May 2, 2018 – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), and the Illinois Green Alliance announced on May 2, the four candidates selected by Illinois for consideration in the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award program. The program recognizes schools that save energy, reduce costs, protect student and staff health and wellness, and offer environmental education. The applications have been submitted to the U.S. Department of Education and are currently under review for national recognition.

“This year we are excited to be partnering with both ISBE and IBHE to recognize four Illinois schools that are leading the way in creating sustainable and healthy spaces for students to learn. Through innovative programs, these schools are reducing their environmental impact and engaging students in sustainability education,” said Liz Kuehn, Program Manager of the Illinois Green Alliance.

The four recipients include:

Monroe Elementary School, part of Community Consolidated School District 181 in Hinsdale, is dedicated to preparing students for understanding their role in the world and their responsibility in protecting it by reducing environmental impact, improving health and wellness, and internalizing environmental literacy. Now in its twenty-third year, the “Living Classroom Learning Lab” is a unique feature of Monroe and highlights their commitment to environmental education. A prairie, butterfly garden, Japanese garden, vegetable garden, pond, and bee habitat allow for “hands-on” learning across the curriculum.

Wolcott School in Chicago is a leader among Illinois private independent schools pursuing sustainability. In 2013, Wolcott received a LEED Gold Certification for its 90-year-old facility, demonstrating Wolcott’s commitment to water and energy efficiency. The certification process allowed the school and staff to make huge strides in sustainability, awareness of energy savings, recycling, cleaning, and classroom instruction. The school also has a solar panel system that is used to educate students and provide some energy to the building. To teach students about the solar panel installation, the science department coordinated a “Solarbration” Day in conjunction with Green Apple Day of Service.

Southside Occupational Academy is a vocational school of 270 special needs children between the ages of 16-22 in Chicago’s West Englewood community on the south side. As an institution focused on increasing student independence, many of their courses including horticulture, green cleaning, carpentry, and the culinary lab, have teamed together to not only contribute to the maintenance of the school’s landscaping, but also use the space for instructional purposes. While making use of green space, students also learn about how to minimize their carbon footprint. The importance of “respecting the environment” is incorporated into every class as students are asked to self-assess how they did in terms of “Respecting themselves, respecting others, and respecting the environment.”

The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is the first post-secondary institution to be nominated by Illinois for the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award program. UIC’s vital role in education, technology, and culture places them in a unique position to advance sustainability for the region. The University’s ten year, formal commitment to sustainability builds on a long history of dedication to waste reduction, social justice, health and well-being of the City of Chicago and beyond. The programs at UIC that reduce environmental impact and costs are facilitated by the work of the Office of Sustainability (OS) and the Chancellor’s Committee on Sustainability and Energy. These efforts are driven by the UIC Climate Commitments to be a Carbon Neutral, Zero Waste, Net Zero Water, and Biodiverse University.

We are pleased the Illinois Green Ribbon Schools program has been expanded to include our Illinois colleges, said Dr. Al Bowman, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education. “The University of Illinois at Chicago’s program certainly is exemplary and will serve as an example to other Illinois college campuses to be fully involved in the Illinois Green Alliance on-going efforts to promote sustainable environments at our education institutions.”

Illinois is among 25 states participating in this year’s program. Applications for the program, now in its seventh year, were submitted to ISBE, IBHE, and Illinois Green Alliance in mid-February.

Each state may submit up to five nominees from public or private pre-K-12 schools or districts, and one college or university to the U.S. Department of Education. If a state nominates more than one public school, at least one must be a school with at least 40 percent of students eligible for free and reduced-priced school meals.

Following the U.S. Department of Education’s announcement of winners later this month, there will be an award ceremony for the selected schools to be recognized in Washington, D.C., in September.

For more information about the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools program, including a list of previous and current state winners, visit

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About Illinois Green Alliance

The Illinois Green Alliance is a membership directed non-profit organization working to transform the region’s built environment to become ecologically sustainable, profitable, and healthy. To do so, we engage community leaders and utilize member expertise in education and community outreach through targeted programs and initiatives focused around green homes, communities, schools and existing buildings. With hundreds of passionate members and volunteers who lend their time and expertise, Illinois Green provides nearly 75 educational programs, community engagement events, tours, and advocacy initiatives each year. For more information about the Illinois Green Alliance, visit

Media Contact:

Liz Kuehn
Program Manager, Illinois Green Alliance
312-245-8300 x204