At an event in Washington, D.C. on August 8, 2023, Huntley Community School District 158 was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and costs, promote better health, and ensure effective environmental education.
Huntley D158 was one of two school districts in Illinois to be recognized as a 2022-23 Illinois Green Ribbon Schools Award by the Illinois State Board of Education, which submitted its application to the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools Program for consideration at the national level.
At the heart of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools are three pillars toward which each honoree is expected to demonstrate progress. Huntley 158’s green initiatives began nearly 14 years ago and have resulted in an annual energy cost savings for the district of approximately $1.5 million. Significant physical changes to the energy consumption components of D158 facilities include:
- Lighting retrofits, HVAC and high efficiency equipment upgrades in schools and district facilities
- At no cost to the district, D158 installed 15,100 solar panels in 2020 across its three campuses, making it Illinois’ largest solar panel installation on school district property. The project now produces clean, renewable energy to fuel all district buildings.
- Purchase of 33 propane buses, comprising approximately one-third of District 158’s current bus fleet. In addition, the district received $1.04 million in grant funding to pay for the purchase of four electric buses.
“We are incredibly proud to have received the Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools award,” said interim superintendent Jessica Lombard. “This achievement reflects our unwavering commitment to sustainability, environmental education, and fostering a culture of environmental stewardship among our students and staff.”
The recognition event in D.C. was held at the U.S. Department of Education. Attendees participated in sessions facilitated by national leaders in school sustainability and had the opportunity to share their school district’s practices. Attending the event were White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten. Henry McKoy, director of the Office of State and Community Energy Programs for the U.S. Department of Energy and Janet McCabe, deputy administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also congratulated the honorees for their efforts. The Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council offered a reception on Capitol Hill following the event. In addition, numerous agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Department of Energy, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offered events throughout the week to connect honoree representatives with more resources and honor their achievements in whole school sustainability. Representatives received sustainably crafted plaques and banners in recognition for their achievements.
The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 18 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 honorees can be found here (see p. 40 for Huntley School District 158). 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.