ITHACA, N.Y.—Ithaca’s New Roots Charter School has been deemed a Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, celebrating its “school curriculum, culture and practices.” New Roots is one of just 33 schools chosen for the honor nationwide.

The awards are meant to recognize schools that boost sustainability efforts through aligning with the Green Ribbon pillars of reduced environmental impacts, increased wellness and a focus on the environment and sustainability in STEM learning. Twenty states nominated schools to be honored; New Roots was nominated by New York in late 2020. According to its announcement, New Roots had previously been awarded the Green Schools National Network’s Best of Green Schools Award in 2019.

“The school integrates core environmental, sustainability, green technology, and civics studies into a four year college preparatory curriculum,” the school said. “Students examine the complex relationship between human and natural systems and how they can serve as ecological stewards and agents of ecosystems restoration, developing their capacity as ‘solutionaries.'”

Its announcement went on to tout parts of the school’s curriculum, including scientific field studies conducted by students, engage with community environmental organizations and local agencies, and share the research subsequently. By their final year in school, students take part in self-designed Capstone Projects to highlight sustainability issues and try to address them.

“The U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award criteria sets the gold standard,” said New Roots Founder and Principal, Tina Nilsen-Hodges. “We are so honored to be recognized among schools committed to the highest ideals for these essential elements of a 21st century education.”

“In an era of global climate change, there’s an urgent need for educators to adopt the practices aligned with the three pillars of the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools,” said Peter Bardaglio, Executive Director of Ithaca’s 2030 District, Founder of Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative, and founding member of the New Roots Charter School Board of Trustees.

The list of all selected schools, districts, colleges, and universities, as well as their nomination packages, can be found here.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at