SRU named a 2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School awardee


campus entrance sign
U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School logo

April 22, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University was named as a 2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School Postsecondary Sustainability Awardee today by Christy Goldfuss, managing director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and John King, U.S. Secretary of Education.

SRU, which was nominated for the honor by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, was the only institution of higher education in the state to be recommended for the postsecondary sustainability award.

"It is an honor to be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education with this award and a tribute to our staff, students and faculty that contribute daily to our efforts to support sustainability initiatives at SRU," said Cheryl Norton, SRU president. "I especially want to recognize members of the President's Commission on Sustainability, and Paul Scanlon, executive assistant to the president for sustainability, for their tireless efforts in helping us the University continue to improve its carbon footprint. What a great exclamation point to our 2016 Earth Days Celebration."

"Earth Day reminds us of the great strides we've made to address climate change and protect our planet, but there is still a long way to go to ensure that our children and grandchildren can experience our earth's natural treasures just as we have," Goldfuss said. "By inspiring young people to connect with their environment every day, today's honorees are creating the next generation of environmental stewards."

The goal of the program is to inspire schools, districts and institutions of higher education to strive for 21st century excellence, by highlighting promising practices and resources. To that end, the award recognizes schools, districts and institutions of higher education that adhere to the trio of Green Ribbon Pillars, including:

  • Reduction of environmental impact and costs;
  • Improvement of the health and wellness of schools, students and staff; and
  • Providing environmental education, which teaches many disciplines and is especially good at effectively incorporating STEM, civic skills and green career pathways.

Combined progress in all three of these areas serves as the basis for recognition and to support the goals of reduced college costs, increased completion rates, higher rates of employment and robust civic skills among graduates, Goldfuss said.

The award helps to identify and communicate practices that result in improved student engagement, academic achievement, graduation rates and workforce preparedness, and reinforce federal efforts to increase energy independence and economic security.

  • The U.S. Department of Education noted that SRU engages in numerous sustainability efforts, including, among others:
  • Participation in the AASHE STARS reporting system to benchmark progress in the three Green Ribbon School Pillars;
  • Use of a variety of tools to assess campus buildings' performance, including an AASHE Climate Action Plan, which includes energy audits and building re-commissioning activities to assess the performance of facilities;
  • Tracking progress in reduction of energy use, and has shown a 22 percent reduction in energy use since the base year 2005, despite a 32 percent increase in campus facilities area during this period;
  • Establishing the President's Commission on Sustainability to coordinate and facilitate education opportunities related to sustainability;
  • Providing Green Fund Grants to fund sustainability and environmental projects proposed by students, faculty, and staff;
  • Establishing the President's Commission on Wellness to coordinate and facilitate educational opportunities related to healthy lifestyles, and to support free activities such as Zumba and yoga classes; a 10,000 step-a-day walking program; nutrition classes; and a noon jogging club; and
  • Offering 19 sustainability-focused courses; 29 courses that include sustainability components; eight sustainability-focused undergraduate degrees; three sustainability minors programs; and two sustainability-based master's degree programs, including a Master of Education degree in Environmental Education.

Nationwide, a total of 47 elementary, middle and high schools, 15 districts and 11 colleges and universities were honored.

All awardees will be recognized at a special ceremony July 20 at the U.S. Department of Commerce's Herbert Hoover Auditorium. Each honoree will receive an engraved plaque made of sustainable materials.

A complete list of all selected schools, districts, colleges and universities - as well as their nomination packages - is available at:

A report with highlights on the 73 honorees can be found at:

MEDIA CONTACT: Robb King | 724.738.2199 |