Reducing Environmental Impact and Costs: The Quest for the Green Ribbon

  • Health and Wellness
Lynda Sailor & Alison Weems


Since 2012, the State of Colorado has welcomed 18 statewide educational institutions to the coveted status of “Green Ribbon School.” The award, issued as part of the US Department of Education, honors America’s public and private elementary, middle and high schools for their efforts toward improving student health and achievement and reducing their environmental impact.


In November 2019, Aspen Academy completed an extensive application including celebrations of accomplishments in the following Pillars:

Pillar 1: Reduced Environmental Impact and Costs

Pillar 2: Improved Health and Wellness

Pillar 3: Effective Environmental and Sustainability Education


In order to qualify in the first pillar, reducing environmental impact and costs, schools must make strides in the following areas:

  • Reduced or eliminated greenhouse gas emissions, using an energy audit or emissions inventory and reduction plan, cost-effective energy efficiency improvements, conservation measures, and/or on-site renewable energy and/or purchase of green power;
  • Improved water quality, efficiency, and conservation;
  • Reduced solid and hazardous waste production through increased recycling and composting, reduced consumption, and improved management, reduction, or elimination of hazardous waste; and
  • Expanded use of alternative transportation, through active promotion of locally available, energy-efficient options and implementation of alternative transportation supportive projects and policies. 1

Aspen Academy has shown a commitment to reducing environmental impact and cost reduction in numerous ways, including these eight (8) areas:

  • Decreasing annual energy consumption by 45% from 2014-15 to the 2017-18 school year with the installation of LED lights, occupancy sensors, lighting timers, and Energy Star appliances throughout the school campus and parking lots.
  • Reducing paper use by more than 26,500 sheets per school year since 2018 by converting to electronic document management.
  • On average, diverting 400 lbs of waste to recycling and compost each month.
  • Saving 47,500 plastic bottles by installing four water bottle filling stations (installed between 2014 and 2018).
  • Painting 3,260 square meters of roof surfaces white between 2011 and 2017 reduced energy use, reflecting 85% of the sunlight, and greatly reducing the total Urban Heat Island effect in the area.
  • Using low VOC paint and carpet tiles made from recycled materials throughout school buildings.
  • Installing artificial turf (made from recycled tires) in 2012 to cover 1,525 square meters of a playing field to replace water-consuming grass on the playground.
  • Decreasing water consumption 50% since 2011.

As recognition for our commitment to reducing environmental impact, Aspen Academy received an Environmental Leadership Program Bronze Award through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in 2019.

We continue through the process for this prestigious distinction and will share more about other pillars in forthcoming blogs.


For more on how our school value of “Make the World Better” comes to life at Aspen Academy and through our students, click here.






About the Authors

Lynda Sailor, Co-Founder, Business & Operations Director

Lynda co-founded Aspen Academy because she has always believed in education that can make the world a better place. Lynda has served in several roles during her more than decade long run at Aspen and is currently the Business & Operations Director. In 2019, she received the National Association of Business Officer's Will J. Hancock Unsung Hero Award for her extraordinary contributions to Aspen Academy and exceptional integrity, knowledge, and motivation.

Prior to developing her passion in education, Lynda worked as Performance Management Consultant and Retail Operations Manager at Ralston Purina, earning many distinctions including the Retail Excellence Award, the Customer Excellence Award, and the Innovator Award.

Lynda graduated summa cum laude from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Marketing with an emphasis in Human Resource Management.  She also has her MA in Organizational and Clinical Psychology. Lynda also serves on the Board of Directors and current Finance Chair for Real Colorado, one of the top ranked soccer clubs in the country.


Alison Weems, Owner of Greenify Colorado

Alison Weems is the owner of Greenify Colorado. As a sustainability consultant, Alison works with schools, businesses, and homeowners  to create, maintain and monitor sustainable systems. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies (with a focus in education) from Brown University in Rhode Island. Alison has worked in the field of education for over 20 years, teaching math and science to students, grades 4-12, at several independent schools.  As the Sustainability Coordinator at Mackintosh Academy Littleton for the past few years, Alison designed and implemented award-winning environmental programming for the school.  As a transplant from New England, Alison enjoys all that Colorado has to offer with her husband, 2 college-age kids, and her dog. 


About the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Award

U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) is a federal outreach initiative structured as a recognition award that helps to promote effective school sustainability and collaboration. By highlighting schools, districts, and postsecondary institutions’ cost-saving, health promoting, and performance-enhancing sustainability practices, it seeks to encourage other institutions to adopt these practices as well. For more information, click here.