Huntley District 158 receives federal sustainability award

District is only one in Illinois to receive District Sustainability Award from U.S. Department of Education

Huntley School District 158 installed solar panels at three of its campuses, in Huntley, Algonquin and Lake in the Hills, making up a system of 15,100 panels that will offset 12.3 million pounds of carbon emissions.

Huntley School District 158 was the only school district in Illinois to receive a District Sustainability Award from the U.S. Department of Education, the agency announced Thursday.

The district is one of 11 nationwide to be honored for its efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education, the U.S. Department of Education said in a news release.

Also recognized were 26 schools, including Prairie Trails School, an early learning center in Mount Prospect, which were named U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools. Four postsecondary institutions were also recognized.

“The challenges posed both by the pandemic and by climate change have driven home the importance of modernizing school facilities, embracing sustainability, prioritizing health and wellness, and improving learning conditions for students, especially in underserved communities,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

“Our 2023 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools have raised the bar for sustainable practices, energy efficiency, health and wellness, and hands-on learning experiences that enhance students’ problem-solving skills and foster a sense of environmental stewardship and civic responsibility,” he continued.

In its nomination, Illinois State Board of Education noted the district’s efforts around sustainability and environmental awareness began nearly 14 years ago, according to U.S. Department of Education material.

Its endeavors around energy efficiency has led to an annual reduction in energy costs by more than half, according to the summary. It also built a solar energy installation, the largest on school district property in Illinois.

The district is electrifying its transportation fleet by acquiring four all-electric buses and plug-in hybrid minivans and by installing electric vehicle infrastructure fueled by the solar array, according to the summary.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency awarded more than $4.2 million to help fund 17 electric school buses in the Chicago area and in the Metro East region near St. Louis, including at Huntley School District 158.

Other projects the district pointed to included within its food services department where the district implemented food-sharing tables, recycling and liquid waste sorting stations, bulk condiment stations, reusable trays and it has eliminated milk straws.

Students across grade levels have engaged in service projects that facilitate tree planting in the community, fundraised for clean water in Uganda, and established beneficial new practices through recycling and ecology clubs, according to the U.S. Department of Education.