Skip to main content

ASU high school sustainability program receives Valley Forward award

Group photo of men and women in Sustainability Science for Sustainable Schools.
October 22, 2012

Sustainability Science for Sustainable Schools was honored at the 32nd annual Valley Forward Environmental Excellence Awards, held Sept. 29. The awards ceremony brought together over 600 community members from all spectrums – business, nonprofit, education, and technology – to give recognition to those exemplifying sustainability and environmental responsibility in the Phoenix metro area.

This year, Valley Forward chose among over 120 entries. Sustainability Science for Sustainable Schools received a merit award for the category, Environmental Education/Communication in the Public Sector. The Sustainable Schools project was recognized for its wide reach and ability to tailor sustainability education to a diverse range of communities and populations.

“We appreciate Valley Forward’s recognition of our graduate students’ and their partner teachers’ work to implement sustainability projects in Valley schools,” says Monica Elser, education manager at Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability and co-principal investigator of the Sustainable Schools project. “This award provides us with even more incentive to share our program both locally and nationally.”

The Valley Forward Environmental Excellence Awards includes seven categories: buildings and structures, livable communities, site development and landscape, art in public places, environmental technologies, environmental education/communication, and environmental stewardship (SRP Award). The awards are selected by a panel of expert judges within each award category.

“It was a very inspiring year,” says Diane Brossart, Valley Forward’s president and CEO. “The awards are a nice way to gauge progress in the Valley. Everybody thought of the whole green movement as ‘trendy’ and I’ve got to say, it’s here to stay. It’s the way people are doing business, and it impacts the bottom line. Businesses are driving the movement and it’s very exciting to see.”

The Sustainable Schools project pairs ASU graduate students with high school students and teachers to apply sustainability science to project-based learning activities. Recent sustainability projects include Bioscience High School’s hybrid car, Carl Hayden High School’s portable planter box project, and Tempe High School’s first-ever No Impact Week. In 2011, Tempe High School kick-started their year-long Introduction to Sustainability course as a pilot project and the second year of the course began this fall. One of Bioscience High School’s projects received media coverage for converting a brownfield site to a sunflower field. The students harvested the sunflowers to convert sunflower oil into biodiesel to power the school’s hybrid vehicle.

“These sustainability projects provide an avenue for both our graduate students and area high school students and teachers to impact their local community in a positive way and promote thinking about how to achieve a sustainable future,” says Elser.

Now in its fourth year, the Sustainable Schools project continues to bring sustainability to local classrooms and communities. Within the past three years alone, participating graduate fellows and high school teachers taught sustainability to over 5,700 students and initiated over 100 sustainability projects across ten school sites. The project also shares lessons learned at regional and national events, such as last February’s What’s Next for Sustainable Schools and Communities? symposium, co-sponsored by the Global Institute of Sustainability and the Council of Educational Facilities Planners International.

Sustainability Science for Sustainable Schools is proud to join others in the Environmental Education/Communication awards category, such as the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, Green Living Magazine, and Audubon Arizona.

View list of awardees.

About Sustainability Science for Sustainable Schools

ASU’s Sustainability Science for Sustainable Schools project, funded by the National Science Foundation, furthers sustainability science across high schools in the Phoenix metro area. With the guidance of researchers from the world’s first School of Sustainability, ASU graduate students partner with district administrators, teachers, and students to create a more sustainable curriculum, campus, and community. The project is part of Arizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability. For more information, visit