Virginia Middle School Awarded Second Public Green Flag Award

Fifty-year-old school now among the "greenest Eco-Schools in the world”

06-15-2011 // Max Greenberg
Green Flag ceremony Lanier Middle School

Just one week after America's first public Green Flag was raised in Boston, the second followed some 460 miles to the south.

Fairfax’s Lanier Middle School was awarded Virginia’s first Eco-Schools USA Green Flag—just the second American public school so honored—in a ceremony today, denoting exceptional achievement in ‘greening’ school grounds, operations and curricula.

The Eco-Schools USA program, which is hosted by National Wildlife Federation, counts nearly 500 schools and some 205,000 students among its participants, but only two others (including one private school) have achieved the program’s highest honor, the Green Flag. The first Green Flag school, certified in April, is Georgia's Savannah Country Day School.

“I wanted to tell you how very proud we and our National Wildlife Federation and Eco-Schools USA colleagues are of Lanier’s incredible accomplishments over the last 14 months,” said Laura Hickey, Senior Director of Eco-Schools USA, on hand for the official flag-raising at the school she once attended. “The Green Flag is special – and only awarded to those schools who have demonstrated a commitment to environmental sustainability and increasing environmental literacy for its students, faculty, and wider school community.”

Beyond being a credit to Lanier, the Green Flag is a significant honor for Fairfax City and Fairfax County—the first such award for either. The flag-raising drew Fairfax Mayor Rob Lederer along with Sharon E. Stark, District Director, Office of Congressman Gerald Connolly; Dean Tistadt, Chief Operating Officer, Fairfax County Public Schools; Ann Monday, School Superintendent, City of Fairfax; and Janice Miller, Chairman, City of Fairfax School Board, all eager to salute the 50-year-old school that, according to Hickey, has “now joined the ranks of the greenest Eco-Schools in the world.”

To win the second public Green Flag, Lanier’s students and faculty tackled a host of sustainability initiatives that began with forming an Eco-Action team, instituting environmental-themed curricula, and auditing facility energy efficiency and waste disposal. These steps led to a variety of projects designed to raise environmental and natural awareness, cut waste, increase student engagement and save money for the school.

Among the new steps: evaluating the lighting efficiency in each classroom, instituting an automatic shutdown of all computers to save energy at the end of the day and installing an environmental service learning requirement for all 7th grade students.

Lanier’s visible changes have been significant too, ranging from the simple—installing more recycling and compost bins – to the exotic--establishment of a courtyard wildlife habitat and vernal pool designed using runoff water. The school has proposed installing a solar panel to exhibit renewable energy methods.

Many schools have implemented the Eco-Schools USA program, some earning Bronze- and Silver-level awards for their progress (Virginia alone boasts 44 Eco-Schools). The Green Flag level requires a rigorous combination of environmental audits, curriculum reinvention and internal and external monitoring.

The Eco-Schools program is an international network of 38,000 K-12 schools in 51 countries, started in 1994 by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) with support by the European Commission. It was named by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) as a model initiative for Education for Sustainable Development in 2003. NWF was named the stateside host in 2008, thus formally launching Eco-Schools USA.

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