COE receives 2022 California Green Ribbon Schools award

The California Department of Education today announced it has awarded the Santa Cruz County Office of Education (COE) with a 2022 California Green Ribbon Schools award for excellence in resource efficiency, health and wellness, and environmental and sustainability education.

The COE received the award at the Silver Recognition level. It is the sole county office of education to receive a 2022 California Green Ribbon Schools award, and has the distinction of earning the highest recognition level among California’s 58 COEs to date.

“The Santa Cruz COE has a long history of serving as a hub for environmental literacy within our community, as well as taking on leadership roles in our state,” said Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Faris Sabbah. “We are deeply committed to advancing environmental literacy and stewardship, and we are honored by this recognition of the impactful work of our office and our partners.”

Assisting districts and schools with providing environmental education and environmental literacy resources is a pillar of the COE’s work. In recent years, the COE convened the Teacher Leadership Institute for Science and Environmental Literacy, supporting and enabling educators at all grade levels to embed field trips and locally relevant environmental topics into the classroom’s standards-based curriculum. The COE also supports student leadership and advocacy through the Alliance for Youth Action, which includes the student-led group Youth for Environmental Action.

“Our county is unique in that we have been working with every district in the county to bring teacher leaders representing nearly every school site together with environmental educators,” said Amity Sandage, Environmental Literacy Coordinator at the COE. “We share credit for this award with our districts and environmental education partners who have been essential to the success of these efforts.”

For decades, the Santa Cruz COE has served as one of the state’s 11 regional leads for the California Department of Education’s CREEC (California Regional Environmental Education Community), providing districts and schools across four counties with access to environmental education and environmental literacy resources and training.

Currently, Santa Cruz COE serves on the Leadership Council of the California Environmental Literacy Initiative (CAELI), a public-private partnership between CA Dept of Education and Ten Strands Foundation working to implement strategies from the California Blueprint for Environmental Literacy. As a founding member of the CAELI County Office of Education Innovation Hub, Santa Cruz COE is a co-lead of the newly launched County Office of Education Environmental Literacy Community of Practice which offers support to the 58 county offices of education in the state to increase their capacity to support districts in providing equitable environmental education.

Over the past decade, the Santa Cruz COE has also accomplished a number of major greening efforts at its facilities, including:

  • Construction of a large ground mount solar array providing over half of the energy needs onsite at the COE’s Santa Cruz headquarters
  • Completion of a comprehensive energy audit and replacement of all lighting fixtures to reduce energy use at all COE-owned sites
  • Installation of drip irrigation and drought tolerant landscaping
  • Review of all chemicals and cleaning products and the creation of new purchasing contracts to use 100% green certified cleaning supplies
  • Replacement of three vehicles in the COE fleet with hybrid vehicles for staff travel

For more information about the COE’s environmental programs, go to