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School Sustainability Award

“Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) is one of 11 school districts across America to be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education with the 2023 Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability award for its efforts in reducing their environmental impact and practicing sustainability.


In 2021, the district realized its goal cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent, nine years earlier than expected. Of the district’s 29 school buildings, 25 use geothermal systems, and the district completed energy efficiency upgrades by installing new roofing and LED lighting.


Environmental education at ICCSD begins in kindergarten when students plant trees and learn how to nurture their growth. In partnership with the University of Iowa, is fifth or sixth grade students spend a full week in outdoors learning about the environment. Ninth graders will take an earth and space science course, which also explores environmental issues.

Students are also involved in the district’s tree canopy initiative, which involves planting diverse trees recommended by Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources.


The district has reduced its use of pesticides by adhering to an integrated pest management program. Grounds manager Ben Grimm explains, “This includes simple tweaks such as door sweeps to prevent rodents from getting beneath doors and repairs to buildings.

Even once we have an infestation, let’s say ants, ants aren’t necessarily harmful to humans. So, we don’t just go in and spray pesticide all over the place. We vacuum up the ants.”

Students practicing eco-choices

Are you a teacher or a parent of a child in school? If so, might you share this article with your principal? Or, as a taxpayer, you could contact a member of your school board? Schools can make a difference!

Paris Barraza, “Iowa City Community School District is among 11 districts across the U.S. recognized for its sustainability,” May 2, 2023, Iowa City Press-Citizen,

Photo by Emily Delgado of West High seniors, Krisha Kapoor and Zoe Scott, explaining to an elementary student how to prepare a garden for winter.

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