WKU on list to be recognized as Green Ribbon School

Lashana Harney

WKU is in the running to be recognized as a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School (ED-GRS). 

Melissa Young, director of special projects on the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, said the council chose WKU over two other submitted proposals.

“WKU has not been selected yet, as they have been selected to represent Kentucky in the national competition,” Young said.

Young said the review committee was impressed with WKU’s sustainability education. 

“It wasn’t just the majors, but how the environment is used as a teaching tool,” Young said. “…Their proposal really showed a good example for the rest of the state.”

WKU had to demonstrate excellence in the three pillars: reducing environmental impact, improving health and wellness and effective, environmental sustainability education.

Young said WKU stood out because of the university’s commitment to local produce and Farmers’ Markets.

Christian Ryan, WKU sustainability coordinator, said the proposal process started at the end of October. 

“Basically we put together a small committee and put together a proposal and made it awesome,” Ryan said. “…It was really a nice, collaborative effort.”

After submitting the proposal in December, Ryan said she was notified of the nomination on Tuesday, Jan. 27. She said WKU’s committee made revisions to their proposal and sent it to be reviewed by the Department of Education.

Ryan said in the proposal, committee members outlined WKU’s sustainability efforts such as energy conservation, waste reduction strategies and academic programs. 

She said the proposal highlighted WKU’s master degree program in Social Responsibility and Sustainable Communities and how the program was the first in Kentucky. She said the proposal also emphasized WKU’s sustainability research and how the Office of Sustainability is a best practice demonstration home.

“We have an amazing storm water quality management plan,” Ryan said. “We talked about air quality management. There are so many things we are doing. We couldn’t fit them all; the maximum is 15 pages… We got enough in there to make an impression.”

The ED-GRS award originally applied to K-12 schools. This is the first year higher education schools were invited to participate, Young said. Individual states select one university or college to compete as the state nominee in the national competition.

Young said 25 schools will receive the award. 

If WKU wins, President Gary Ransdell will be invited to D.C. to accept the award, Ryan said.

Ryan said WKU will not receive a financial award if chosen, just recognition that WKU is environmentally conscience.

The results of the ED-GRS competition concludes April 26, Earth Day.

“It seems like Earth Day’s a long time away,” Ryan said. “We feel really hopeful.”