Nebraska Green Schools

children planting tree with smokey bear
Students must be engaged at the intersection of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), energy, environment and public health to develop: sustainable solutions, employability, college and career readiness knowledge and skills.

Through the Nebraska Green Schools Program (NE-GS) students and teachers throughout Nebraska can investigate the environmental impact of their school, develop action plans for improvement and earn badges as they work their way up to achieving Nebraska Green Schools Emerald Status. The NE-GS program consists of five school site investigations students in grades 4-12 can conduct:

  • Energy
  • Water
  • School Site
  • Environmental Quality
  • Waste and Recycling

After an investigation is complete, the students along with the rest of the green team, create an action plan for addressing any environmental issues they discovered.  As each action plan is submitted, your school will earn a badge and be one step closer to being Emerald Status! To get more information about becoming a Nebraska Green School, please contact Hanna Pinneo at

The Nebraska Green Schools program is a joint initiative between the Nebraska Forest Service and the Nebraska Department of Education.


Photograph of the investigation booklets.

Each school has some flexibility in how to complete the requirements to earn badges and Emerald status, but below is a general outline.

  1. Assemble a Green Team. Your Green Team must consist of students, faculty, staff, and at least one administrator, but feel free to also invite community members, after-school program staff, and anyone else you think should be included.
  2. Complete your orientation (NFS staff will set this up with you).
  3. Meet as a team on a regular basis and submit meeting minutes quarterly.
  4. Complete the investigations in any order at your own pace. To remain active, at least one investigation needs to be completed each school year.
  5. After each investigation is completed, submit your action plan to be connected to resources and to earn your badge.
  6. After all investigations are complete, submit a success story.
  7. The NFS, NDE, and partner organizations will work with you to set up a celebration of your accomplishment!
  8. You now have the option of applying for a PLT GreenWorks! grant to request funding for an action plan you developed.
Contact Us to Sign Up

The Investigations

You will need to complete five investigations to reach Emerald Status. You can complete them in any order you choose. You may work on one at a time, or complete them simultaneously. The investigations and an adult leader guide are available to download for free. 

School Site  Students will investigate habitats, wildlife, trees, gardens, and ways to improve, maintain, and use the grounds for learning.
Environmental Quality  Students will investigate ways to improve indoor air quality, transportation, safe chemical use, and more.
Waste and Recycling  Students will investigate how much waste your school generates, where it goes, recycling and composting.
Water Students will investigate the source, cost, and quality of the school’s water supply, and ways to conserve water.
Energy  Students will investigate the source, cost, and quality of your school’s water supply, and ways to conserve water. In place of Energy Investigations, you could instead utilize the Energy Star Portfolio Manager (ESPM) tool.

Earning Badges

School Site Badge Complete the investigation and submit your action plan.
Environmental Quality Badge
Waste and Recycling Investigation Badge
Water Investigation Badge
Energy Investigation Badge
ESPM Badge Utilize the ESPM tool, set benchmarks, and submit at least one action plan.
Community Partner Badge Work with a community partner to complete an investigation OR action plan.

Emerald Status

Once you complete all of the investigations and have submitted your action plans, you have reached Emerald Status! The first thing to do is celebrate, the whole Green Team worked very hard to accomplish this. The Nebraska Forest Service and the Nebraska Department of Education will distribute a press release highlighting the hard work of your Green Team and your accomplishments. We will also work with you to organize a celebration at your school. Your Green Team will be nominated for a Nebraska State Forester’s award and you will be eligible to apply for a PLT GreenWorks! grant to help you complete at least one of your action plans.