A new federal program will recognize schools that are creating healthy and sustainable learning environments.

As the “green” movement sweeps across the nation, prompting citizens to buy organic produce and reduce their energy consumption, schools are following suit with lesson plans that teach students how to value environmental resources and with practices that save energy—and money. Now, a new federal program will honor and encourage these efforts.

The U.S. Education Department (ED) created the Green Ribbon Schools program to recognize schools that are creating healthy and sustainable learning environments and teaching environmental literacy. The new awards program will receive support from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“Preparing our children to be good environmental citizens is some of the most important work any of us can do,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said at an event announcing the new program. “It’s work that will serve future generations and quite literally sustain our world.”

More stories on green policies in schools:

New program brings solar panels, and education, to schools

Schools get smarter about ed-tech energy use

Schools save money with refurbished computers

New AV systems offer sharp images, ‘green’ projection

The program will be finalized this fall, and applications will be made available at that time. ED currently is accepting comments and suggestions about the program. Those interested can eMail Green.Ribbon.Schools@ed.gov or can leave their comments online at the Green Ribbon Schools blog posting.  The first winners are expected to be announced in 2012.

One poster identified as “Fred” asked that the definition of the word “green” be as clear as possible, so that all schools can participate regardless of building age.