U.S. Secretary of Education Names Bellingham Public Schools a 2022 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School District Sustainability Awardee

April 22, 2022

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that Bellingham Public Schools in Bellingham, Wash. is among the 2022 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School District Sustainability Awardees.

In Washington state, Bellingham Public Schools was named a Washington State Green Ribbon District leader by the Department of Environment and Sustainability Education in the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction and our nomination was elevated to the national level.

Highlights of their nomination include the following:

  • Bellingham Public Schools (BPS) is part of Puget Sound Energy’s Commercial Strategic Energy Management program, tracks utility use in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, and has transitioned nearly all facilities to direct digital controls.
  • All BPS schools are now built to solar-ready standards, and the district installed a 100 kW solar array at its most recently constructed school.
  • Several schools use rain barrels, cisterns, rain gardens, or green roofs to reclaim water and/or protect water quality.
  • BPS offers free bus passes, Safe Routes to School curriculum and maps, and educational “bike rodeos” to promote alternative transportation.
  • BPS has reimagined its food services program to implement a scratch-cooking model, farm-to-school sourcing, culturally appropriate dishes, and nutrition education. BPS has also utilized zero waste practices for over a decade, with all school sites offering food scrap composting.
  • In elementary grades, integrated units of study embed environmental and sustainability goals, with such projects as Salmon in Schools, national parks fieldwork, and garden education. In middle schools, BPS uses a curriculum featuring ecosystems, natural resources, oceans, energy, and climate. Plant systems, a CTE program, allows students to investigate through experiential, hands-on learning.
  • High school students may enroll in environmental science, Advanced Placement environmental science, agriculture hunger, and the environment, ocean science, and sustainable design courses, several of which use local landmarks as a learning lab.

“We are honored to be selected for this distinction around sustainability,” Superintendent Greg Baker said. “Our commitment to sustainable practices in our schools and in our community became even more evident in February with the passage of our 2022 facilities bond that included additional funding for continued focus in this area. This award also brings extra energy and excitement to our newly convened Sustainability Task Force in the district as they build a strategic plan for facilities, including addressing facilities upgrades, changes to habits and culture, and developing students who are environmental protectors. This award propels and inspires new learning and best practices for our staff and community.”

Across the country, 27 schools, five districts, and four postsecondary institutions are being honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education. The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 19 states.

The list of all selected schools, districts, colleges, and universities, as well as their nomination packages, can be found here. A report with highlights on the 36 honorees can be found here. More information on the federal recognition award can be found here. Resources for all schools to move toward the three Pillars can be found here.