UWO sustainability efforts earn US Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools honor

The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is celebrating the Earth Day in a big way.

UW Oshkosh learned Friday it has earned the prestigious US Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Postsecondary Sustainability Award. UWO is one four postsecondary institutions across the country—and the only one in Wisconsin—to receive the 2022 honor.

The recognition is for schools, districts and institutions of higher education that reduce environmental impact and costs; improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and provide effective environmental and sustainability education.

The aim of the US Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools program is to inspire these educational entities to strive for 21st-century excellence by highlighting promising school sustainability practices and resources that all can employ.

Chancellor Andy Leavitt, speaking Friday at an event marking a new University commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2030, said he was thrilled with the national distinction and thanked the UWO community for making it possible. The carbon neutrality commitment marks a continuation of UWO’s now nationally applauded sustainability work.

In the education department’s report on the honorees, UWO was acknowledged for an array of programs, plans and other endeavors. Included are the University’s two anaerobic digestion systems, the tracking of greenhouse gas emissions, the commitment to LEED Gold certification for new construction projects and LEED Silver certification for renovation projects and Arbor Day Foundation Tree Campus USA recognitions for all three campuses, among many others.

UWO Sustainability Director Brad Spanbauer took the lead on the University’s 17-page application. Other UW System universities have received this honor in the past, he said, so it feels good to be recognized among our peers who also are doing so much great sustainability work.

“This was definitely a heavy lift that took input from many departments on campus,” Spanbauer said. “This was truly a team effort and everyone who contributed information and data to this application should feel proud.”

The US Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools issues District Sustainability Awards and Postsecondary Sustainability Awards each year. The program uses a small number of honorees each year to communicate practices and resources that all schools can employ. It also helps to facilitate state and local collaboration around school facilities, health and environmental education.

Along with the four colleges and universities, the US Department of Education also recognized 27 schools and five districts. The honorees are invited to receive a sustainable plaque at a ceremony in Washington DC in July.

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.

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