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Pullman Public Schools Named a 2020 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School District Sustainability Awardee

The U.S. Department of Education announced on April 22 that Pullman Public Schools is among the 2020 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School District Sustainability Awardees. 

Pullman Public Schools was nominated by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Some of the highlights of sustainability efforts in Pullman Public Schools:

Reduce environmental impact and costs

  • Establishment of a district Sustainability Committee in 2019
    • Comprehensive energy audit conducted in 2019 to establish a baseline of district energy use
    • Adoption of committee mission and a district sustainability policy
  • Over 1000 technology devices were saved from the landfill in 2019 through donation to an organization that repurposes and recycles electronics
  • District-wide initiative to move towards “green cleaning”, with reusable spray bottles and washable microfiber cleaning rags.
  • Transportation measures to reduce environmental impact:
    • 18% reduction in miles driven by district buses and vans from October 2018 to October 2019
    • The district received a grant to fund the purchase of an electric bus, with delivery scheduled for Fall of 2021
    • Installation of electric car charging stations at two schools
    • Annual “bike or walk to school day” campaign in collaboration with the City of Pullman

Improve the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff

  • The district is in the second year of a district scratch cooking program, with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. At Pullman High School, approximately 85% of meals include one or more component that is cooked from scratch.
  • Creation and enforcement of a “Snack Policy” for schools. To better protect students with allergies and diabetes, Pullman Public Schools now has a specific list of snacks, including the exact brands, that are approved for classrooms and schools for celebrations.
  • Increased focus on mental health and wellness of students. Additional counselors and a school-based mental health therapist have been hired to provide support for students.


Provide effective environmental and sustainability education, incorporating STEM, civic skills, and green career pathways

  • Green/Sustainability Club at each school, with projects including composting and plastic bag recycling programs
  • Valued community partners include: Palouse Clearwater Environmental Institute, the City of Pullman, Palouse Conservation District, Pacific Education Institute (PEI), and Washington State University (WSU)
  • Construction of an outdoor learning lab at Jefferson Elementary. The Jefferson PTA worked with Washington State University’s Landscape Architecture program to create a space specifically for outdoor learning. Volunteers from the PTA and from the WSU Center for Civic Engagement worked together with students and staff to build the space, which has five learning zones, including a small amphitheater, an edible garden, nature journaling area and pollinator garden.
  • Two full time STEM specialist teachers in the district to serve four elementary schools.


“Sustainability efforts are not only an ethical action, they also help our district to be more responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. Planting native, drought resistant plants and trees, installing water saving faucets, and streamlining bus routes are all actions we have taken that positively impact our district finances, and save money that our local taxpayers entrust us with using wisely,” said Superintendent Bob Maxwell. “We are honored by this exceptional recognition and look forward to continuing the current momentum towards increased sustainability.”

Elizabeth Schmitz, Environmental and Sustainability Education Program Supervisor for the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction said, “Pullman Public Schools has several examples of students taking the lead to be agents of positive change in their communities. Examples include a middle school wide litter clean up on Earth Day, student participation in watershed protection activities, and second graders presenting a tree planting proposal to the school board.”


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.

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.  


The full Pullman Public Schools application report can be read at: https://www.greenstrides.org/sites/default/files/webform/nomination-package-265.pdf