UNCW, D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy and Wrightsville Beach Elementary Named U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

Friday, April 23, 2021

UNCW, D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy and Wrightsville Beach Elementary School have been recognized as 2021 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and provide effective sustainability education.
UNCW is one of only five colleges and universities nationwide to be named a 2021 U.S.  Department of Education Green Ribbon Postsecondary Sustainability Awardee. Virgo, a year-round K-8 school operated by UNCW, and Wrightsville Beach Elementary are among 27 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools this year. Wrightsville Beach Elementary has a partnership with the university. In all, 40 institutions or school districts were honored.
“Sustainability is part of the fabric of UNCW,” said Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli. “We treasure our coastal location and want to preserve our natural resources, as well as promote a healthy, engaged campus and community. Efforts to ensure a sustainable future provide many other benefits, including cost savings to the university and innovation that will fuel the creation of new industries and jobs. UNCW is proud to be recognized as a leader on this front.”
The university practices sustainability through many initiatives, including energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction; waste reduction; water conservation and pollution mitigation; Healthy Hawks and other health and wellness programs; and a focus on campus-wide environmental health. Many projects involve or are led by students, and sustainability is incorporated into applied learning, research and academic programs, including a sustainability minor. 
The efforts involve innovation and engagement, which are key components of UNCW’s Strategic Plan.
“This award is a collection of incredible efforts across campus,” said Kat Pohlman, UNCW’s chief sustainability officer. “UNCW could not have received this recognition without the hard work of the students, faculty and staff who support a green, smart and healthy campus.”
UNCW is the first UNC System school and the second university in North Carolina to receive the honor, Pohlman said.
D.C. Virgo’s efforts include a student-led school-wide recycling program, gardening projects and sustainability presentations and projects in partnership with UNCW.
“We are honored and delighted to extend opportunities for student learning while enriching the curriculum,” said D.C. Virgo Principal Sabrina Hill-Black. “As we continue to promote the three pillars of reducing environmental impacts, improving health and wellness, and offering effective environmental and sustainability education, we hope to leave a lasting impression on students as they continue to explore, experiment and ultimately have a measurable impact on their school-community environment.”  
Located near a tidal estuary, Wrightsville Beach Elementary has created several outdoor learning spaces and takes the opportunity to educate students about the ecosystem that surrounds them. A student-led recycling program is also a point of pride, as is a new, well- ventilated building that lets in plenty of natural light.
The Department of Education’s Green Ribbon recognition is a one-time honor designed to highlight institutions that employ practices and resources that other schools could adopt. Honorees were selected from a pool of candidates nominated by 20 states. More than half of award recipients are in communities where more than 40 percent of the student body is eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
-- Tricia Vance