DHEC is partnering with the US Department of Education (USDE), the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE), the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (SCCHE), and a variety of other state and local partners to promote the USDE's Green Ribbon Schools program in South Carolina. This holistic program recognizes schools that have made progress to reduce environmental impacts, improve the health and wellness of students, faculty and staff, and develop effective, hands-on learning experiences in sustainability.
The aim of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) is to inspire schools, districts, and Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) to strive for 21st century excellence by highlighting promising and sustainable practices and resources that can be generally applied. To that end, the award recognizes schools, districts, and IHEs that:
- Reduce Environmental Impact and Costs
- Reduced or eliminated 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;
- Improved water quality, efficiency, and conservation;
- Reduced solid and hazardous waste production through increased recycling and composting, reduced consumption, and improved management, reduction, or elimination of hazardous waste; and
- Expanded use of alternative transportation, through active promotion of locally-available, energy-efficient options and implementation of alternative transportation supportive projects and policies.
- Improve Health and Wellness
- High standards of coordinated school health, including health, nutrition, and outdoor physical education; health, counseling, and psychological services for both students and staff; family community involvement; and an integrated school environmental health program that considers occupant health and safety in all design, construction, renovation, operations, and maintenance of facilities and grounds.
- Develop Effective Environmental and Sustainability Education
- Interdisciplinary learning about the key relationships between dynamic environmental, energy, and human systems;
- Use of the environment and sustainability to develop STEM content knowledge and thinking skills to prepare graduates for the 21st century technology-driven economy; and
- Development of civic engagement knowledge and skills and students' application of such knowledge and skills to address sustainability issues in their community.
Combined progress in ALL three of these areas, known as "Pillars", serves as the basis for recognition. ED-GRS aligns with DHEC's cross-cutting goals for education, including improving student, staff, and facility performance and increasing efficiency at federal, state, and local levels. It is part of a USDE effort to identify and communicate practices that result in improved student engagement, academic achievement, graduation rates, and workforce preparedness.
Encouraging resource-efficient schools, districts, and institutions of higher education allows administrators to dedicate more resources to instruction rather than operational costs. Healthy schools and wellness practices ensure that all students learn in an environment conducive to achieving their full potential. Outdoor, environmental, and sustainability education help all students engage in hands-on, authentic learning, hone critical thinking and collaboration skills, stay active and fit, and develop a solid foundation in many disciplines.