Camden Hills Regional High School is one of the 2020 Green Ribbon Schools award honorees, announced April 22 by the U.S. Department of Education.

This year's honorees include 55 schools, districts, colleges and universities throughout the country.

“Our schools are leading the way by providing their students with opportunities for environmental education and innovation. These students will be the future leaders and stewards of our planet, and are learning about their role, responsibilities and impact as global citizens," said Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin.

At Camden Hills, a student sustainability group, Windplanners has worked to reduce the environmental impact of the school, with overwhelming support from district administration and the community. The group initiated a major study and capital campaign to install the 100-kw wind turbine on the school property, and the installation of a 159-kw solar array on the school roof, through one of the first power purchase agreements for high school installations in the state.These two installations provide 30% of electricity needs from on-site renewables.

Working with the facilities director, students helped initiate several energy-efficiency projects that have reduced demand by another 20 percent.

CHRHS’ newest initiative involves several staff members and the Windplanners in building an organic waste management system. CHRHS installed a terraced garden on some marginal land that was considered a mowing hazard. Each year, the school designs and plants the school garden with the goal of the harvest maturing when school begins in the fall. The school is also home to an orchard and asparagus patch that produce when school is in session. Both of these initiatives have been focused on helping increase the amount of local produce that supplies the school cafeteria. Whenever possible food is locally sourced, or even comes from the school garden.

The 2020 Education Green Ribbon Award also credits the school for providing students access to people and resources that support their emotional growth and well-being and safe and open space. These include a wellness area with resources such as massage chairs, therapy dogs, animal cams to view nature in action in the school library, and nature trails around the circumference of the CHRHS campus.

Across the country, 39 schools, 11 districts, and five postsecondary institutions are being honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness and ensure effective sustainability education. The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 27 states. The selectees include 28 public schools, including three magnet schools and four charter schools, as well as 11 nonpublic schools. Forty-five percent of the 2020 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body.

CHRHS policies, budgeting, and its people all focus on ensuring systems that will promote and support healthy students, a healthy school, and a healthy planet. Over 77 percent of teachers incorporate sustainability education in courses.

Representatives from CHRHS are invited to attend a tentative ceremony in Washington D.C. on Aug. 4 to celebrate this accomplishment and share their success story.

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 55 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.