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WKU among 2015 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

WKU one of nine honored with first Postsecondary Sustainability Award

Big Red’s efforts to go green earned national recognition Wednesday (April 22) as WKU is among the 2015 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees.

WKU is one of nine colleges and universities honored with the 2015 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Postsecondary Sustainability Award.

WKU is one of nine colleges and universities honored with the 2015 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Postsecondary Sustainability Award.

WKU is one of nine colleges and universities honored on Earth Day with the first Postsecondary Sustainability Award. The announcement was made in Washington, D.C., by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Managing Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Christy Goldfuss. (More: Watch the announcement; read more about the awards.)

“This is great recognition of WKU’s priority for conservation and emerging priority for sustainable behavior,” President Gary Ransdell said. “To represent higher education in Kentucky with this national award is a tribute to years of hard work and a changed culture. Our students are learning to be responsible citizens who protect our planet and value our natural habitats.”

The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools, districts and postsecondary institutions that are exemplary in three Pillars: Reduced Environmental Impacts and Costs; Improved Health and Wellness; and Effective Environmental and Sustainability Education. (More: WKU’s profile from list of 2015 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools honorees)

“The accomplishments that have earned us this recognition are the result of a remarkable degree of commitment, collaboration and determination by students, staff and faculty across campus,” WKU Sustainability Coordinator Christian Ryan said. “So many people work really hard to model, teach and learn sustainability, to create more sustainable WKU. It’s evident we take this endeavor seriously, and pursue it passionately, so we are beyond delighted to be one of the inaugural universities recognized as a Green Ribbon School.”

In addition to the higher education institutions, 58 schools and 14 districts were honored for their efforts. The awards will be presented June 3 in Washington, D.C.

“These honorees are compelling examples of the ways schools can help children build real-world skillsets, cut school costs, and provide healthy learning environments,” Duncan said. “U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools are an inspiration and deserve the spotlight for embodying strong examples of innovative learning and civic engagement. We also are thrilled to add institutions of higher education to the list of honorees this year for the first time in the award’s history.”

The 2015 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Postsecondary Sustainability Award is the latest recognition of WKU’s efforts to improve sustainability, wellness and environmental education.

In 2008, WKU created the Office of Sustainability and hired a Sustainability Coordinator. Since then, conservation and efficiency initiatives have reduced WKU’s energy use by 25 percent.

“I can’t help but reflect that its been almost exactly seven years since John Osborne created the Sustainability Coordinator position,” Ryan said. “My first day was May 12, 2008. He believed that modeling sustainability for our students should be a university priority and set us on a path for continuous improvement through innovation and creativity, encouraging us to try new things and lead, rather than follow. Such leadership has been essential to our success.”

Other successes include:

  • In 2014, 15 tons of food waste from WKU dining halls was composted.
  • WKU has been a Tree Campus USA since 2010; in 2015, WKU’s main campus was recognized as a certified arboretum.
  • In 2009, WKU made a commitment to building to LEED standards and has three LEED-certified buildings with two others pending.
  • WKU has been included in the Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges every year since 2009.
  • WKU’s Wellness program also has evolved into a highly visible, proactive model that promotes healthy and sustainable practices. In 2014, the National Safety Council accredited WKU as a Safe Community, only the fourth university and 25th community in the nation to receive the recognition.
  • WKU’s campus is a “living laboratory” for students as sustainability has been integrated into disciplines across departments and colleges.
  • WKU has developed community partnerships, particularly with the Community Farmers Market and a Mobile Market, in effort to improve food access.

WKU was recognized as Kentucky’s first university-level nominee for the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award April 9 in Frankfort. The Council on Postsecondary Education managed the postsecondary Green Ribbon Schools competition and selected WKU from a field of applicants.

“I am delighted that Western Kentucky University has been nationally recognized as one of the first postsecondary Green Ribbon Schools,” CPE President Robert King said. “Not only is WKU a good steward of the environment, their sustainability practices have cut energy costs, allowing them to reinvest in campus programs and services. These are the kinds of practices all universities should emulate.”

For additional information about the 2015 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, visit http://www2.ed.gov/programs/green-ribbon-schools/awards.html.

Contact: Christian Ryan, (270) 745-2508

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