Heritage Elementary, Poudre School District honored in national Green Ribbon Schools program
Heritage Elementary School in Highlands Ranch and the Poudre School District in Fort Collins were named 2016 honorees under the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Schools Program for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impacts, utility costs, improve health and wellness and ensure effective sustainability education.
The honorees were announced on Earth Day, Friday, April 22, by U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. The school and district were pulled from a pool of candidates nominated in 25 states; Washington, D.C.; and the Department of Defense Department of Education Activity.
“We are fortunate to have such conscientious schools, districts and students in Colorado,” said Colorado Education Commissioner Rich Crandall. "These schools are demonstrating ways to both cut costs, promote health and wellness and positively affect the environment.”
Here are highlights from Colorado’s winners:
Heritage Elementary School’s Energy Team, in collaboration with the Douglas County School District’s operations and maintenance department, has worked to reduce the school’s impact on the environment. Onsite solar panels provide about 27 percent of the building’s energy, and the school has reduced its energy consumption by 14 percent over three years. The automated irrigation system, use of native plants, and hugulkultur gardening practices all ensure efficiency of water use on school grounds, reducing domestic water usage by 8 percent and irrigation by 35 percent. Students and teachers work diligently to implement waste diversion strategies, including recycling, composting, and using food waste to feed the school’s chickens, resulting in a 57 percent diversion rate.
Poudre School District’s commitment to sustainability began in 1994 with the formation of the Energy Efficiency Team, a group tasked with coordinating sustainable efforts and defining sustainable goals. PSD has completed 260 energy efficiency projects resulting in a utility savings of over $2 million, and a greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by over 5,000 tons since 2005. The district has been recognized by numerous local, state, and national organizations, including being the first school district in Colorado to be awarded the Environmental Leadership Award, having the first LEED Gold certified school in the nation, and earning the first ENERGY STAR rating for a school building under the Designed to Earn designation.
The University of Colorado-Colorado Springs also was named as an honoree in the program.
“I congratulate these schools, districts and postsecondary institutions for their commitment to sustainable facilities, health and classroom practices,” said Secretary King. “The healthiest, most inspiring school facilities can and should be another tool to level the playing field, particularly for underserved students. These honorees are 21st century learning environments that encourage every student and teacher to perform at his or her best.”
The honorees include 41 public schools and six private schools. The schools serve various grade levels, including 27 elementary, 18 middle, and 14 high schools, with several schools having various K-12 configurations. Fifty-one percent of the 2016 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body. The postsecondary honorees include two community colleges and one work-college.
The U.S. Department of Education's "Green Ribbons" are one-year recognition awards. Next year's competition will open in summer 2016.