Department of Environmental Conservation

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Green Schools

Schools across New York are recycling, reducing waste, saving energy, conserving resources, preventing runoff pollution and working to eliminate toxic materials. In addition to the long-range benefits of good environmental stewardship, green policies help schools provide healthier surroundings for their students and staff.

See our extensive list of teacher resources related to the environment, including lesson plans, workshops, poster contests, and green chemistry information.

Governor Cuomo issued a proclamation (PDF, 1 MB) declaring April 24, 2012 as Healthy Schools Day in New York. View a list of schools that have won DEC's prestigious Environmental Excellence Awards.


Cover of Conservationist for Kids Magazine

Conservationist for Kids

Conservationist for Kids is DEC's very own nature and outdoors magazine for students. The magazine is sent to all public school 4th graders three times a year. Visit the website for additional activities and resources for educators and fun "green" activities for your school.

Lesson Plans and Workshops

DEC offers environmental education lesson plans and training for educators, and can provide printed materials and support to help teachers focus on environmental issues in the classroom. DEC also runs several poster contests that children can enter.

Project Learning Tree's GreenSchools! program (leaving DEC's website) has a number of investigations for youth to run at their school building -- examining waste and recycling, water use, engergy use, and the entire school site as a whole. Project Learning Tree is sponsored in New York by the DEC's Bureau of Environmental Education.
[*Note: you have to sign up to view the investigations. It is free to sign up.]

New York Recycles!

New York Recycles! is part of a national event - America Recycles. Visit the webpage for teacher information and an educational booklet with activity pages and resources for use in the classrooms. Also find other ideas for incorporating recycling into the classroom on our Green Schools - Recycling page.

Recognition and Award Programs

NYS Environmental Excellence Awards Program

The Environmental Excellence Awards honor schools, organizations, individuals, businesses and others for achieving exceptional environmental benefits and improving and protecting New York State's environment.

NYS Green Ribbon Schools

The NY State Education Department's Green Ribbon Schools program (leaving DEC's website) recognizes schools taking a comprehensive approach to greening their school. A comprehensive approach incorporates environmental learning with improving environmental and health impacts. It is the New York nomination process for the US Education Department's Green Ribbon Schools program.

Grant Opportunities

Environmental Justice Community Impact Grants

Environmental Justice grants are available for projects such as cleanup of lead or mercury contamination in schools and education projects connecting inner-city students to nature.

Recycling Grants

Matching grants for school districts are available through the Municipal Waste Reduction and Recycling State Assistance Program.

Urban Forestry Grants

Grants are available for eligible urban forestry projects including plantings on school properties.

School Grounds and Facilities

Toxics Elimination, Reduction

Many schools have mercury and chemicals that need to be removed. This program can provide schools with chemical waste management practices and information on how to start a mercury clean out in your school. There is also an introduction to green chemistry practices to minimize hazardous waste.

Solid Waste Reduction, Recycling

Recycling is mandatory in schools in New York State. This site provides assistance in establishing comprehensive waste reduction programs in schools.

Hazardous Waste Management

DEC's Waste Management program provides guidance managing proper disposal of fluorescent lamps, mercury-containing equipment and other hazardous waste, such as lab chemicals.

Outdoor Air Quality

Heavy-duty vehicles, including diesel trucks and school buses, are prohibited from idling for more than five minutes at a time, with few exceptions; learn about the anti-idling law and required vehicle emissions inspections.

You can also visit the EPA's Clean School Bus USA program (leaving DEC's website) for more information on reducing children's exposure to diesel exhaust and the amount of air pollution created by diesel school buses.

Pest Management

Schools and day care centers that apply pesticides must meet DEC and State Education Department requirements. Information about alternative pest management methods is also available.

Stormwater Management

Learn how state standards for stormwater management may apply to your school. There is also information and guidance for adopting techniques for green infrastructure, including green roofs and rain gardens.

Green Cleaning Program Online Training

New York State Office of General Services (OGS) offers online training courses to facility managers, school administrators, educators, parents, and citizens. These courses provide a wealth of free information and tools to promote adoption of effective green cleaning practices, leading to healthier indoor environments. You can access these courses by visiting the OGS Green Cleaning Program online training (leaving DEC's website).