School division earns national sustainability award

Beginning in September 2008, Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) has collected recycling material in each of its schools. Since then, VBCPS has diverted 8,900 tons from the waste stream. That is the equivalent to more than one and one-half million trees.

For its innovative sustainability practices and effective environmental education, VBCPS was named a 2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School, District Sustainability Awardee, one of only 73 recipients nationwide. VBCPS Sustainability Officer Tim Cole and VBCPS Director of Facilities, Planning and Construction Tony Arnold accepted the award July 20 at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Green Ribbon

The division is home to several demonstration renewable sources of energy that serve as learning tools, specifically wind turbines, solar hot water systems, and solar electricity generating panels.

Each school appoints a sustainable school liaison. VBCPS has 64 schools with outdoor teaching gardens, 72 schools with environmental clubs, and over 60 schools that partner with third-party environmental organizations.

As new school buildings are planned, VBCPS has kept the environment at the forefront. To date, VBCPS has completed eight Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings. A ninth LEED project, the Old Donation School replacement, is currently underway and the 10th, the replacement of John B. Dey Elementary School, is in the design phase.

During this growth, VBCPS has reduced energy use by 24 percent per square foot.

In addition, VBCPS has 31 ENERGY STAR certified buildings. ENERGY STAR certified buildings meet strict energy performance standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They use less energy, are less expensive to operate, and cause fewer greenhouse gas emissions than their peers.

All of those contributions to reduce the mankind’s carbon footprint has garnered VBCPS schools a remarkable 39 sustainability awards since 2008.

“Our students, staff and division leaders are proving that caring for the environment is important,” said Cole.

The division’s efforts are not stopping here. VBCPS has a Sustainable Schools Committee comprised of representatives from various departments across the division, including custodial services, school plant, transportation and facilities. They are tasked with implementing and monitoring sustainable operational programs like green cleaning, no idling and integrated pest management practices.

In the end that committee’s work and the school’s numerous projects are not about awards. It’s about making a difference for planet Earth.

For more information about the VBCPS sustainable efforts visit

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