Five New Jersey schools were named as 2016 “Green Ribbon” schools by the U.S. Department of Education on April 22.
The five are Whitehouse School in Readington Township; Egg Harbor Township High School; West Caldwell Tech (Essex County Vocational-Technical); Triton Regional High School in the Black Horse Pike Regional District; and one post-secondary school, Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg
NJSBA, which is committed to sustainable practices, participated in the selection process.
“I congratulate these schools, districts and post-secondary institutions for their commitment to sustainable facilities, health, and classroom practices,” U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said in a statement. “The healthiest, most inspiring school facilities can and should be another tool to level the playing field, particularly for under-served students. These honorees are 21st century learning environments that encourage every student and teacher to perform at his or her best.”
The Green Ribbon Schools program recognizes achievement and best practices in the areas of energy efficiency, healthy school environments, and sustainability education. The schools were chosen for a range of sustainability initiatives they have instituted.
The Whitehouse School noted in its application that about 70 percent of the school’s property is school gardens, raised beds, wetlands, forest and native grasses. The school has adopted green cleaning policies and procedures, and undertaken an energy management system.
Egg Harbor Township High School has implemented an energy monitoring and savings program, hired a full-time energy specialist, boosted school recycling by more than 4,000 percent in the past four years, and developed districtwide and building-level green teams to advance green measures.
Essex County West Caldwell Tech has instituted several sustainable practices in recent years, including energy conservation measures, a farm-to-school lunch program, and a recycling program. The school also incorporates sustainability into its curriculum, requiring an environmental science class for students, and including environmental and sustainability practices into its career majors. For example, the school’s horticulture and agriscience program participates in the Trout in the Classroom program, in which students raise trout, engage in stream habitat study and learn more about ecosystems.
Triton Regional High School produces 45 percent of its energy onsite with roof-mounted solar arrays. The school emphasizes composting and single-steam recycling in the main dining areas of the school, has two functioning greenhouses and is in the planning stages of an on-property organic garden.
The sole post-secondary institution, Raritan Valley Community College in Somerville, was cited for accomplishments such as being the first community college in the country to sign an environmental stewardship agreement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to reduce its environmental impact and costs, and the first community college in the U.S. to run an energy-saving cogeneration plant.
In addition to the winning schools, the U.S. Department of Education also honored a New Jersey Department of Education official, Bernard Piaia Jr., director of the Office of School Facilities at NJDOE, for his efforts to promote green schools around the state.