Congratulations to our 2021 Challenge Winners and Standout Leaders!

Congratulations to all of our standout leaders and winners of this year's Sustainable and Climate Resilient Schools Challenge! Despite a difficult year, we had 20 stand-out leaders who received an award for their innovative sustainability efforts during the 2020-21 school year. Five of these leaders received a financial award to support the next phase of their projects. 

Learn more about the winners and standout leaders. Thank you to all who participated, and thank you to Peninsula Clean Energy for making the financial award possible.

About the Challenge

The purpose of the San Mateo County Sustainable and Climate Resilient Schools Challenge is to identify students, teachers, administrators, and community members who are leading meaningful change in the Campus, Curriculum, or greater Community, and to recognize them for their impact towards creating a sustainable future.

Challenge Structure

Select a Category

SMCOE's sustainability recognition and awards program is built around focus area topics that draw from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) and One Planet Living Framework. Please choose one of the topical categories or one of the general categories to submit achievements to be considered for recognition.

General Categories


Ecological Footprint
Reducing an entity's ecological footprint takes into account producing less waste, pollution, and resources, while also working to make the ground, community, and culture more sustainable

Climate Resiliency: Mitigation
Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions to try and curb the root cause of climate change. We are causing it, and it is happening to us, and resiliency is our response

Climate Resilience: Adaptation
Reducing the impact and vulnerability that climate change-related effects cause to humans and the environment

Topical Categories

We have laid out 9 topical focus areas that aim to highlight different aspects of creating a sustainable and resilient school Community, Curriculum, and Culture. Please choose one as the focus of your submission. If you feel that your submission fits in with more than one category, you may want to apply under one of the general categories.

Food Systems
Promoting sustainable, humane farming and healthy diets which are high in local, seasonal organic food and vegetable protein.

Land-Based Ecosystems
Protecting and restoring land for the benefit of people and wildlife.

Sustainable Watersheds
Use water efficiently, protect local water sources, and contribute to flood risk management.

Sustainable Transportation
Reducing the need to travel, and encouraging walking, cycling, and low-carbon transport.

Carbon Neutral Energy
Making buildings and manufacturing energy-efficient and supplying all energy with renewables.


Zero Waste and Consumption
Reducing consumption, reusing, and recycling to achieve zero waste and zero pollution.


Air Quality
Reducing the pollutants in the air that cause poor air quality and negative health effects.

Green Building and Grounds
Making buildings and grounds more sustainable and efficient.


Marine Ecosystems and Shoreline
Reducing pollution, waste, and overconsumption in Marine ecosystems while addressing sea level rise and effects on the shoreline


Select a Pathway and Level

Once an Analysis Lense is selected, there are three pathways in which a stakeholder may submit achievements to be considered for Sustainable and Climate Resilient Schools recognition:

Campus and Operations
Greening facilities and operations by reducing ecological footprint and carbon footprint to zero impact, and making ecologically beneficial choices. The other two pathways also call on school communities to utilize these greening efforts as a laboratory for learning.

Create high-quality learning experiences that provide a transformative learning process that equips students, teachers, and school systems with the new knowledge and ways of thinking we need to achieve economic prosperity and responsible citizenship while restoring the health of the living systems upon which our lives depend (definition of Education for Sustainability, Cloud Institute).

Community Awareness and Action
Engage the internal and external community in actions that walk the talk of sustainability, and contribute to a sustainable paradigm shift at the local level

Within each pathway there are three-tiered achievement levels in which a stakeholder may submit achievements to be considered for recognition:

  • Entry Level: Beginning stages of a cultural shift within the school community.

  • Mid Level: Culture shift is underway and gaining traction within the school community.

  • Full Integration Level: A complete culture shift has been established within the school community and beyond and is demonstrated with commitment across multiple categories.

How to Participate


  • This program is open to both public and private PK–12 schools within San Mateo County

  • Submission can be made from any stakeholder in a school community: administrators, faculty and staff, students, parent volunteers, community partners, etc.

  • There can be multiple submissions from any school site

  • If an activity is repeated in future years, leaders must submit each year to earn ongoing recognition

Submission Process

The submission process for the 2022 Challenge will be announced in spring 2022. All submissions will follow the four-step process below:

Step 1: Overview

In no more than 250 words, provide a description of the action taken. Include information about WHAT took place, HOW it went, and WHO was involved. Additionally, explain how the effort aligns with equity and justice, and/or health and wellness:

  • Equity and Justice: When explaining the connection to equity and justice, applicants should include how the effort reached a diverse audience (consider race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status), and/or provided access to groups of students in an equitable manner. Other justice related connections might be if the actions reduced the impact of this community on environmental justice issues (how can we reduce our impact) OR how to reduce the impact on an especially hard hit community.
  • Health and Wellness: Explain how this effort enhanced the wellbeing and happiness of all stakeholders in the school community and beyond.

Step 2: Learning

In no more than 150 words, provide a reflection on what the sustainability champions and/or community learned about environmental, social, and economic sustainability by taking this action. If this was classroom curriculum, explain what the students learned and how you know they learned.

Step 3: Evidence and Impact

Upload evidence of the action that took place. These may be in the form of photos, flyers, testimonials, etc. Additionally, for mid-level and full-integration levels, provide impact metric details.

Step 4: Next Steps

In no more than 250 words, provide an overview of what steps will be taken by the school, student, and/or teacher to ensure that the momentum and knowledge gained from the project will carry through. Submissions with the strongest clear steps forward will be considered for a financial award (up to $500) which will be put towards implementing the plan for next steps. 

Other Recognition Programs

SMCOE’s SCRS Challenge allows leaders from school communities to build a portfolio of achievements, which can later be utilized in regional, state, and federally sponsored recognition and awards programs, such as: