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All public, charter, and private schools, career and technical centers, and educational facilities operated by intermediate units in Pennsylvania are eligible to apply for the PA Pathways to Green Schools and USDE Green Ribbon Schools Award series.

Eligibility requireme​​nts for each of the US ED-GRS program categories are located on US Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools website.

  • Individual Pre-K – 12 Schools are eligible to apply for the USDE Green Ribbon School
  • School districts in Pennsylvania with multiple buildings are eligible to apply for the USDE Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Award.
  • Institutions of higher education may also apply for the Postsecondary Sustainability Award.

Pennsylvania is permitted to nominate as many as five Pre-K-12 schools or districts to the U.S. Dept. of ED. Additionally, Pennsylvania may nominate one institution of higher education for progress in all three Pillars. All schools, school districts, colleges, and universities must meet college and career ready standards, be in compliance with federal civil rights laws, and comply with all federal, state, and local health and safety standards and regulations.

The PDE and U.S. Dept. of ED select and announce awardees from the schools, districts, and institutions of higher education nominated by each state in the spring of each year.

For an application to be considered, complete and submit the online application, as well as supplemental materials, to PDE by 6:00 PM, January 12, 2024. Submittals to PDE via other methods will not be accepted. Applications will be available in the fall of each year.

Helpful Hints for a Successful Nomination Application Process: (NOTE: The application must be completed in one sitting. You will not be able to save your information and return later.

  • Download Sample Pathways To Green Schools/ US DE GRS Online Application (Word)
  • Write your draft nomination: It is highly suggested that you write a draft of your responses off-line in the sample application form, ahead of time; then cut/paste your information into the online application.
  • Review Narrative Requirements: Be sure to thoroughly discuss the following areas in narrative form:
    • Narrative for Pillar I: Your Efforts to Reduce Environmental Impact and Costs (1-4 pages)
      • Describe how your school, district, or postsecondary institution is reducing environmental impact and costs in the following areas:
        • Reducing or eliminating greenhouse gas emissions; using an energy audit or emissions inventory and reduction plan, cost-effective energy efficiency improvements, conservation measures, and/or on-site renewable energy and/or purchase of green power;
        • Improving water quality, efficiency, and conservation; including use of onsite best management practices inside and outside the property
        • Reducing solid, food, and hazardous waste production through increased recycling and composting, reduced consumption, and improved management, reduction, or elimination of toxic cleaning chemicals or hazardous waste
        • Expanded use of alternative transportation, through active promotion of locally available, energy-efficient options and implementation of alternative transportation supportive projects and policies;
        • Expanded use of alternative transportation, through active promotion of locally available, energy-efficient options and implementation of alternative transportation supportive projects and policies
      • Identify your energy-efficient facilities and practices, ecologically and educationally beneficial uses of grounds, and methods of disposal for solid and hazardous wastes.
      • Use supporting data and reference participation in pertinent benchmarking programs to demonstrate progress where possible.
    • Narrative for Pillar 2: Your Efforts to Improve the Health and Wellness of Students and Staff (1-4 Pages)
      • Describe how your school, district, or postsecondary institution improves the health and wellness of students and staff in the following areas:
        • Integration of an environmental health program that considers sound health and wellness and safety in all design, construction, renovation, operations, and maintenance of facilities and grounds;
        • Encourages implementation of integrated pest management or other preventative protocols in the following areas:
          • Cleaning and maintenance;
          • Mold and moisture prevention and remediation
          • Reduced exposure to chemical and environmental contaminants;
          • Ventilation, improved indoor air quality;
          • Pest management and pesticide use reductions
      • Describe how your school is working to meet the high standards of Whole School Whole Community, Whole Child health. Be sure to include how your school is supporting the following efforts:
        • Nutrition and improved access to healthy foods in and out of school;
        • Outdoors physical activity;
        • Other components you may include are health education, health services, counseling, psychological and social services, sun safety, staff health promotion, and family and community involvement;
      • Incorporate metrics and include program participation where possible.
    • Narrative for Pillar 3: Your Efforts to Ensure Effective Environmental and Sustainability Education (1-4 Pages):
      • Describe how your school, district, or postsecondary institution ensures effective environmental and sustainability education throughout the curriculum.
        • Provide examples of interdisciplinary learning about the key relationships between dynamic environmental, energy, and human systems.
        • Demonstrate how your institution uses the environment and sustainability to develop E-STEM content, knowledge, and thinking skills, and teach all subjects in context.
      • You should discuss how your school, district, or postsecondary institution develops and applies civic knowledge and skills to environmental and sustainability education.
      • All STEM and civics work should be described as it relates to environmental and sustainability learning.
      • Detail any environmental or sustainability literacy standards, show how these concepts are integrated into assessments, and describe environmental and sustainability literacy professional development. Include co-curricular opportunities such as field trips, study abroad, clubs, and service learning.
      • This section should describe hands-on, place-based, project-based, authentic learning across the curriculum, not limited to one subject area, such as science courses, but demonstrating integration across all disciplines that overlap with environmental literacy.
    • Summary Narrative: An Overview of Your Work Encompassing All Three Pillars (2-3 pages):
      • This overarching summary should highlight the best of your work in every ED-GRS Pillar and Element.
      • Provide a summary narrative describing your school, district, or postsecondary institution's efforts to reduce environmental impact and costs; improve student and staff health and wellness; and provide effective environmental and sustainability education.
      • View examples of summary narratives in past Highlights Reports. The summary that you submit should be what you would like to see appear in a future Highlights Report, if your institution is selected.
      • Be sure to include concrete sustainability achievements, supporting data, unique partnerships, program participation, awards, and certifications. It may be helpful to pull from your previous three narratives to write the summary.
  • Complete and Sign the Appropriate Nominee Presentation Form: Note: Embedded signature image or sign the document using signature tool. Typed signature will not be accepted):
  • Select your photos: Please submit 5-10 photographs with brief descriptions including who, what, when, and where. Photos should be action shots, not posed and of high enough resolution that they can be used both online and in print. By sending these photos, you are giving Pennsylvania and the U.S. Department of Education permission to use them in our newsletter and social media.
  • Email the appropriate nominee Presentation Form and Photos to PA Pathways to Green Schools Coordinator, by 6:00 PM, January 12, 2024 Tamara E. Peffer,

Contact: Tamara E. Peffer, Environment & Ecology Content Advisor, PDE: