Lowell and Twain elementary schools are the only individual public schools statewide nominated by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson for this year’s national Green Ribbon Awards. The awards, given by the U.S. Department of Education, recognize exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, promote better health, and provide effective environmental education.
Nominated under the school district category was the Encinitas Union Elementary School District. San Domenico School, a private school in Marin County, also earned a Green Ribbon nomination from Torlakson.
The nominees were announced during a ceremony at Ocean Knoll Elementary School in Encinitas, where Twain and Lowell principals and parents attended.
“We are honored and thrilled,” said Lowell parent and Green Team Co-Chair Holland Brown. “At Lowell, the Green Team is everyone. We look forward to celebrating with our entire Community Green Team, to learning new ideas from these other great schools, and to sharing our lessons learned with others.”
The U.S. Department of Education will confirm the national award winners on Earth Day, April 22.
Green Ribbon Schools demonstrate exemplary achievement in reducing environmental impact and costs; improving the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and providing effective environmental and sustainability literacy, incorporating science, technology, engineering and mathematics education (STEM), civic skills, and green career pathways.
"I am proud to recognize these outstanding schools and district for their comprehensive efforts to green their campuses, their communities, and our state," Torlakson said. "Together with efficient facilities and good health practices, a strong ecoliteracy education develops students into citizens who will be lifelong stewards of our environment."
At Lowell, every child participates in the Learning Garden, totaling 8,000 instructional hours per year. Student Green Team members divert more than 28,000 gallons of classroom recyclables annually from the trash. Car Free Fridays, promoted and measured by the Student Council, eliminate more than 150 pounds of carbon dioxide per week and encourage exercise. Fifty-five percent of students walk or bike to school, and students take more than 15 walking field trips each year. Lowell received Energy Star certification in 2012 with a score of 98.
Twain parent and Green Team Founder Lisa McCarthy was the lead applicant for her school’s award, describing how parents and Green Team students volunteer daily to help divert trash, reducing lunchtime waste by 85 percent.
The Twain Green Team engages 35 percent of eligible students (grades 2-5) as active members, but reaches the entire school community. A monthly "Bottles & Cans Day" earns the school $2,500 annually in recycling income. Twain is an American Heart Association Teaching Gardens School and received Energy Star certification in 2011 with a score of 97.
Hughes Middle School earned the National Green Ribbon Award last year. Longfellow Elementary School earned the National Green Ribbon Award in 2012, the inaugural year of the awards.