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FCPS Get2Green landscape with people biking and walking on grass.

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.


Fairfax County Public Schools and the National Wildlife Federation have a formal partnership to engage students in hands-on environmental action through the Eco-Schools USA program.


You can learn more on the Eco-Schools USA website and through the overview below.

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 Find a School page so you can join your school’s team. If your school is not yet registered, you can register as an Eco-School and add other members of your school’s Eco-Action team.


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.



Framework Steps
Four hands in a circle.

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!

Paper checklist

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.

Calendar and clock.

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.

Paper and magnifying glass

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.

Chain link

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. 

School with flag and three people.

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.

Earth and piece of paper

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 topics, such as biodiversity or energy, that schools choose to help focus and guide efforts to improve sustainability.  The 12 Pathways are detailed below along with links to each pathway’s page on the Eco-Schools USA website.


Pathway Pathway Topic

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.


Hand holding earth.

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.



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.



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.


Walking trail.

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.



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.



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.

Hand holding roots.

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.



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



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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.


water drop

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.


Fish swimming in water

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 a separate pathway with separate audits, action plans, and resources. You can choose one to address.


Watersheds Pathway | Oceans Pathway | Wetlands Pathway

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. Schools can start out by applying for a Bronze award or move straight to the Silver Award or Green Flag.


Award Award Level
Bronze Award

Bronze Award

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

Silver Award

Silver Award

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

Green Flag Award

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 any three pathways.  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?

The Eco-Schools USA program benefits students, schools, and the environment. 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