In 2017, 14 percent of public and charter schools in the Chesapeake Bay watershed—610 schools in all—were certified sustainable. This marks a 22 percent increase from the number of sustainable schools in the watershed in 2015.

Certified sustainable schools include public and charter schools within the Chesapeake Bay watershed that have been recognized as sustainable by the following programs: U.S. Green Ribbon Schools, National Wildlife Federation Eco-Schools USA (Bronze, Silver and Green Flag status), Maryland Green Schools, Pennsylvania Pathways to Green Schools and Virginia Naturally Schools.

At 82 percent of the total (or 503 schools), Maryland is home to most of the certified sustainable schools in the watershed. Sixteen percent of the sustainable schools in the watershed are located in Virginia, with five additional schools located in the District of Columbia, two additional schools located in Pennsylvania and one located in West Virginia. Because the vigor of school sustainability programs varies among jurisdictions, state participation in these programs can differ. In some states, programs are robust; in others, programs are not well-established; and in others, programs do not yet exist.

While no part of the watershed was excluded from this count, not every jurisdiction has a state-specific sustainable school program. The Chesapeake Bay Program will continue to monitor sustainable school programs in the region, and may expand future reporting to include new programs that meet the sustainable school criteria defined by the U.S. Department of Education. Future reporting may also include sustainable private schools, which are not measured here.

While this outcome is not associated with a numerical target, experts anticipate the number of certified sustainable schools in the watershed to rise as partners implement those actions identified in this outcome's management strategy.

Sustainable schools reduce the environmental impact of their buildings and grounds, work to improve the health and wellness of students and staff, and offer environmental education incorporating civic skills, STEM and green career pathways. Because increasing sustainability in and around schools can directly involve students in environmental protection and restoration, a rise in sustainable schools can indicate a rise in overall environmental literacy.

Learn About Factors Influencing Progress

Management Strategy

To achieve this outcome, Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to:

  • Strengthening and coordinating state-level sustainable school recognition and certification programs that are consistent with high-quality, recognized criteria (e.g., those that support the U.S. Green Ribbon Schools program);
  • Engaging non-traditional stakeholders in environmental education to expand awareness, increase support and build partnerships around sustainable schools; and
  • Sharing information about and resources to support sustainability with schools and school districts.

As part of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s partnership-wide implementation of adaptive management, progress toward this outcome was reviewed and discussed by the Management Board in May of 2020.

Download Management Strategy (.pdf)

Logic & Action Plan

Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking a series of specific actions that will support the management approaches listed above.

Completed actions from this outcome's Logic & Action Plan include:

  • In Washington, D.C., the Office of the State Superintendent of Education and Environmental Education Consortium have informed the Healthy Youth and Schools Commission of the Chesapeake Bay Program's sustainable school goals.
  • In Virginia, the Department of Education has asked experts, stakeholders, and state and federal agencies to suggest tools, resources, training opportunities and other assistance to help schools implement sustainable school programs.

Learn About Logic & Action Plan

Participating Partners

The Fostering Stewardship Goal Implementation Team leads the effort to achieve this outcome.

Participating partners include:

  • State of Delaware
  • State of Maryland
  • Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • Commonwealth of Virginia
  • District of Columbia
  • Chesapeake Bay Commission
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • National Park Service
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • Cacapon Institute
  • Chesapeake Bay Foundation
  • Delaware United
  • Experience Learning
  • Green Building United
  • Stroud Water Research Center