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History of NC Green Schools

North Carolina Green Schools was founded by Asheville Buncombe Sustainable Community Initiatives, Inc. (ABSCI), a NC not-for-profit sustainability organization based in Asheville, NC. The program is now housed at the Center for the Environment at Catawba College in Salisbury, NC under the leadership of Dr. John Wear, Executive Director of the Center. 

Reading Riding and Retrofit: NC Green Schools Program began under the guidance of  ABSCI, a 501(c)(3), in 2009. Reading Riding and Retrofit was developed to encourage and recognize green initiatives in the schools of NC.  Initially RRR piloted their efforts within the public schools of Buncombe County NC. Through community partners including The Asheville Hub, Buncombe County, Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools, the program began to convene conversations to improve the energy footprints of local public school campuses.  Partnering with The Land of Sky Regional Council and Waste Reduction Partners in the summer of 2009, a $499,000 EPA Climate Showcase Grant was secured to advance energy saving initiatives and build a culture of conservation on the campuses. The program was a great success and built the foundation for the next phase of work.

The outcomes of the EPA Climate Showcase Grant include 41 Buncombe/Asheville schools replacing lights and heating systems with more energy efficient ones, thus saving $240,000 in utility costs/year and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1,300 metric tons annually. Teachers and students also started school gardens, composting programs, “Turn it off” energy conservation campaigns, and engaged in other hands-on environmental and community projects. Read about all the school enhancements and energy/cost savings in the Land of Sky final report.

In the summer of 2011, RRR staff began the research to develop a Green Schools Program specifically designed to support North Carolina schools. Through the relationships built at the National Green Schools Network, a green schools recognition program was modeled on The Palm Beach County Green Schools Program, developed by Florida Atlantic University’s Pine Jog Environmental Education Center and the pillars of the US Department of Education’s Green Ribbon. The NC Green Schools program encourages, supports and recognizes the efforts of North Carolina K-12 schools.

We seek to expand the NC Green Schools Learning Network in order to help teachers connect and share information through in person workshops, online webinars, an annual conference, and connector meetings.


Thank you to the following people: Mack Pearsall of ABSCI as a founding sponsor for his commitment and financial support of the program, and Robin Cape as the developer and founding director of Reading, Riding, Retrofit and the NC Green Schools, for her vision, collaborative spirit, and leadership in the early years stewarding the program.

NC Green Schools gratefully acknowledges the generous supporters who have made this project possible.  Some supporters have provided the important funds needed while others have given their dedicated time and expertise. Thanks to all of you!


The Hub and Buncombe County seeded the original concept and development of the program.  The Hub sparks collaborations within Buncombe County to benefit the community through economic and community development projects.


United States Environmental Protection Agency.  The USEPA was a key funder with a grant from the Climate Showcase Communities Program.  The focus of this grant was to direct our attention to the 54 public schools in Buncombe County to reduce energy and the carbon footprint of the schools and spark a culture of green within the school systems. 


Land of Sky Regional Council was a key partner in the implementation of the Climate Showcase Grant. They dedicated staff time for grant management and supporting the development of green teams and mini grants within the schools.


Waste Reduction Partners engineers and scientists worked with our schools by conducting onsite assessments and providing consulting servicess to assist in the implementation of the energy upgrades funded by the Climate Showcase Grant. 


The Palm Beach County Green Schools Recognition Program provided the initial inspiration for our program. Thanks to Susan Toth and her team for their leadership and for being so generous in sharing their hard work with us!  


We wish to thank the following organizations for providing us with their valuable resources to ensure that Reading Riding and Retrofit: The NC Green Schools Program will better serve the schools of North Carolina as they “go green.”


We are grateful to the following people for their support as advisors over the years as we have built this program. 


  • Robin Cape, Founder, Reading Riding Retrofit
  • Susan Gottfried, National Green Schools Network, Evergreen Community Charter School
  • Lisa Tolley, NC Office of Environmental Education
  • Renee Strnad, Environmental Educators of North Carolina
  • Ben Matthews, NC Dept of Public Instruction
  • Ron Collier, NC Dept of Public Instruction
  • Len Hoey, NC State Energy Office
  • Hamilton Cort, US Green Building Council Charlotte Chapter
  • Terry Albrecht, Waste Reduction Partners
  • Julie Woosley, Environmental Assistance and Customer Service Center of State of NC Department of Environmental and Natural Resources
  • Rachel Eckert, NC Department of Environmental Assistance and Outreach
  • Sarah Yelton, Environment Educators of North Carolina
  • Marty Wiggins, NC Office of Environmental Education
  • Keith Bamberger, NC Division of Air Quality
  • Eleanor Ashton, Evergreen Community Charter School
  • Linda Giltz, Land of Sky Regional Council,
  • Jon Snover,  Blue Ridge Tech Ventures
  • Jennifer Hoverstad, NC Green Building Council
  • Dr. John Wear, Center for the Environment at Catawba College
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