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Eco-Schools USA

Eco-Schools USA is a program run by the National Wildlife Federation that uses school-based action teams of students, administrators, educators, and community volunteers to drive environmental stewardship and education in schools. Eco-Schools USA combines effective “green” management of the school grounds, the facilities, and the curriculum to provide students with a unique, research and application based learning experience.

 

You can learn all about Eco-Schools USA on the Eco-Schools USA website or by reading or skimming through the Eco-Schools USA Handbook.

How does my school become an Eco-School?

Before registering, you should check if your school is already a registered Eco-School listed on the Current Eco-Schools page.  Your school can register as an Eco-School any time at the Eco-Schools USA website.

 

My school is a registered Eco-School.  What do I do now?

Once you register, you can get started by following the Seven Step Framework.

 

 

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Step 1: Form an Eco-Action Team

Your school’s Eco-Action Team is a student-led team that guides the environmental stewardship efforts at your school.  In addition to students, your team should include teachers, administrators, custodians, parents, volunteers, and other community members.  Feel free to give your team a creative name!

 
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Step 2: Conduct an Environmental Audit

Once your Eco-Action team has formed, you can conduct an audit for the Eco-Schools Pathway of your choice.  The audit will help you understand the current situation of each pathway at your school.  You can find the audits linked below or on the Eco-Schools website.

 
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Step 3: Create an Eco-Action Plan

You’ve collected some great data from your audit – now what do you do with it?  Use the audit results to create an action plan with your goals and a timeline for achieving them.  You can find sample action plans and templates under each pathway on the Eco-Schools website.  You can also find them linked below.

 
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Step 4: Monitor and Evaluate Progress

As you implement your Eco-Action Plan, you will need to monitor your progress in achieving your goals.  For example, if your goal is to reduce waste by starting a Food Sharing program, you can weigh the amount of food donated for the Food Sharing program.

 
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Step 5: Link to Existing Curriculum

As you work on addressing Eco-Schools pathways, you will find that it connects naturally to various parts of the curriculum.  For example, addressing Biodiversity and Schoolyard Habitats ties easily into science curriculum.  Healthy Living and Sustainable Food tie easily into health and PE. 

 
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Step 6: Involve the Community

The more people that are involved with your Eco-Action Team, the more successful you’ll be!  Invite people who don’t regularly meet with the Team to participate in activities such as audit days or school garden cleanups (you can offer service hours for this too).  Share the Eco-Action Team’s work and goal progress in the school newsletter, on social media, and bulletin boards.

 
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Step 7: Create Your Eco-Code

An Eco-Code is your Eco-Action Team’s mission statement – a sort of logo for the Team’s green efforts.  It shows the school’s green priorities in a fun and creative way.  Some schools have an artist on their Eco-Action Team create the Eco-Code while others host a school-wide contest.  You can find sample Eco-Codes in the Get2Green Resource Folder under Eco-Schools.

 


What are the Eco-School Pathways?

Eco-Schools Pathways are environmental issues, such as biodiversity or energy, that schools choose to help focus and guide efforts to green a school.  The 12 Pathways are detailed below along with quick links to Pathway materials on the Eco-Schools website for your convenience.

 

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Biodiversity - Investigating and increasing biodiversity at school and beyond. A wide diversity of species - animals, plants, and other living things - is the key to a healthy, functioning ecosystem on many scales, from the school grounds to the whole planet.

 

Pathway Description | Audit Info | Action Plan Info | Top 10 Tips | Fast Facts

 

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Climate Change Improving climate literacy and investigating climate change solutions.
Schools are joining the movement to solve this urgent environmental issue. They are reducing their "carbon footprints," and in the process, developing science, math, technology and social science skills.

 

Pathway Description | Audit Info | Action Plan Info | Top 10 Tips | Fast Facts

 

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Consumption and WasteMoving beyond Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
A school can reduce its environmental impact by analyzing the full life cycle of the products it uses.  Decreasing consumption and reducing packaging as well as finding new uses for old materials, all translate into smaller amounts of waste being hauled away.

 

Pathway Description | Audit Info | Action Plan Info | Top 10 Tips | Fast Facts

 

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Energy – Analyzing and measuring effective ways to conserve energy.
Schools are the largest energy consumers in many municipalities. But up to 30 percent of that energy is used inefficiently or unnecessarily. Schools can significantly cut energy use, resulting in financial savings and reduced environmental impact, while engaging in STEM concepts.

 

Pathway Description | Audit Info | Action Plan Info | Top 10 Tips | Fast Facts

 

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Healthy Living – Promoting a healthy lifestyle while connecting to natural world. Time spent outdoors, physically active, and engaged in unstructured play is perhaps the best possible prescription to ensure a lifetime of good health.  NOTE: This pathway allows you to focus on one of three areas – Recess Policy, PE Policy, or Physical Activity.  Find the audit or action plan for your chosen focus area on the info pages linked below.

 

Pathway Description | Audit Info | Action Plan Info | Top 10 Tips | Fast Facts

 

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Healthy Schools – Finding relationships between human health and the building and grounds.  Eliminating toxic and hazardous materials, while maximizing elements that promote health, will improve the learning environment for students and staff.  NOTE: This pathway allows you to focus on one of six areas – Hazardous Materials, Indoor Air Quality, Mercury, Mold Growth, Laboratory Waste, or Pest Management.  Find the audit or action plan for your chosen focus area on the info pages linked below.

 

Pathway Description | Audit Info | Action Plan Info | Top 10 Tips | Fast Facts

 

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Learning About Forests (LEAF)An international program of the Foundation for Environmental Education, FEE.  Learning about Forests aims to increase knowledge about the key role forests play in sustaining life on our planet.  Learning About Forests is intended to reassert the idea that our forests are a natural asset to be treasured and kept safe for future generations.  NOTE: This pathway has separate audits for grades K-2, 3-5, and 6-12.  Find the audit for your grade level on the Audit Info page linked below.  (You can use whichever audit you feel fits best.)

 

Pathway Description | Audit Info | Action Plan Info | Top 10 Tips | Fast Facts

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Schoolyard Habitats – Designing, developing and maintaining an outdoor learning laboratory.  Research has demonstrated that in all discipline areas, students who are given the opportunity to directly engage in outdoor education and experiential learning have been able to significantly increase their capacity for learning.

 

Pathway Description | Audit Info | Action Plan Info | Top 10 Tips | Fast Facts

 

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Sustainable FoodImproving food education and nutrition opportunities at school.  Food choices have a big impact on health, the learning day and the environment.

 

Pathway Description | Audit Info | Action Plan Info | Top 10 Tips | Fast Facts

 

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Transportation – Outlining alternative school transportation methods to reduce the school’s carbon footprint.  Our modes of transportation rely heavily on methods of transport whose byproduct is contributing to significant increases in CO2 in the atmosphere.  Strategize, raise awareness and participate in sustainable solutions – transportation that reduces fuel consumption as well as air, noise, and water pollution.

 

Pathway Description | Audit Info | Action Plan Info | Top 10 Tips | Fast Facts

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Water – Analyzing and measuring effective ways to conserve water.  Basic water efficiency programs can reduce a school's water use by 30 percent or more.  Schools can investigate and propose strategies to improve irrigation methods, reduce surface runoff, consumer fresh water more efficiently, and water reuse technologies.

 

Pathway Description | Audit Info | Audit Form | Action Plan Info | Blank Action Plan | Sample Action Plan | Top 10 Tips | Fast Facts

 

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Watersheds, Oceans & WetlandsWater covers about 70 percent of the Earth’s surface.  Our actions inland impact critical ecosystems as water travels throughout our watersheds, filtering through our diminishing wetlands and into our majestic struggling oceans.  NOTE: Each component of this pathway is actually a separate pathway with separate audits, action plans, and resources.  These pathways have separate audits for grades K-2, 3-5, and 6-12.  Find the audit for your grade level on the Audit Info pages linked below.  (You can use whichever audit you feel fits best.)

 

Watersheds Pathway
Audit Info | Action Plan Info | Blank Action Plan | Sample Action Plan | Top 10 Tips | Fast Facts

 

Oceans Pathway
Audit Info | Action Plan Info | Blank Action Plan | Sample Action Plan | Top 10 Tips | Fast Facts

 

Wetlands Pathway
Audit Info | Action Plan Info | Blank Action Plan | Sample Action Plan | Top 10 Tips | Fast Facts

What are Eco-School awards?

As schools complete Eco-School Pathways, they become eligible for awards.  Applications are submitted through a school’s Eco-Schools dashboard.

 

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Bronze Award

To earn a Bronze Award, your school must have earned 100 points and completed an audit and action plan for one pathway.  See if your school qualifies using the Bronze Award checklist.

 
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Silver Award

To earn a Silver Award, schools must have earned 200 points and completed an audit and action plan for two pathways.  See if your school qualifies using the Silver Award checklist.

 
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Green Flag

The Green Flag is the highest honor an Eco-School can earn.  To earn a Green Flag, your school must have earned 300 points and completed audits and action plans for three pathways, one of which is energy.  See if your school qualifies using the Green Flag Award checklist.

 

 

How do I submit an Eco-School award application?

To get an Eco-School award, you must fill out the award form on your school’s Eco-School dashboard.  Award forms can be found by logging into your dashboard; selecting “Apply for New Awards, Manage Awards, and Download Certificates” from the right-hand sidebar; and selecting the award you want to apply for from the dropdown menu.

What are the benefits of being an Eco-School?

In addition to being beneficial to wildlife and the environment, becoming an Eco-School has many benefits from an educational perspective.  The Eco-Schools program improves student academic achievement, contributes to financial savings through energy and water conservation, reduces waste and consumption, increases environmental awareness and stewardship, and boosts community involvement.

 

Learn more about Eco-Schools at www.nwf.org/Eco-Schools-USA.aspx