Some have installed solar panels or have cut waste by thousands of pounds per year. Others have reduced their energy use and expanded outdoor classroom time. Still others produce much of their own food and practice recycling, composting and water conservation.

PHOTO BREAK: 17 amazing green college campuses

The National Wildlife Federation has chosen America's top 10 eco-schools, recognized for "their commitment to wildlife protection, sustainability and environmental education." The schools are spread throughout the country and range from rural districts to cities.

“These schools are creating outdoor living laboratories and habitat on their grounds, reducing energy and water use, and improving recycling—all of which provide opportunities for students and save money for school districts," said Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the NWF.

They schools were ranked based on three factors: commitment to environmental education, the school community's work to making the facility more sustainable, and making the school grounds more wildlife-friendly.

  1. Academy for Global Citizenship (Chicago, Illinois)
  2. Alder Ave Middle School (Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey)
  3. Brooklyn New School (PS 146 New York, New York)
  4. Centreville Elementary School (Centreville, Virginia)
  5. Earth’s Magnet School (Newbury Park, California)
  6. Eisenhower High School (Goddard, Kansas)
  7. Green Tech Academy at Clint Small Middle School (Austin, Texas)
  8. Heritage Elementary School (Highland Ranch, Colorado)
  9. J.C. Parks Elementary School (Indian Head, Maryland)
  10. Jitta Bug Learning Center (North Miami, Florida)

Alder Ave school students celebrate being named an eco-schoolStudents at Alder Ave Middle School in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, celebrate being named a top 10 eco-school. (Photo: National Wildlife Federation)
According to the NWF, the top 10 schools saved a combined $207,914.75 in energy, water and waste diverted or saved. If every American school (public and private) saved at the same rate, the NWF calculates that the savings would total $2.7 billion.

“Many rankings of the greenest schools look mainly at facilities, and a new building is certainly a great way to reduce long-term impact," said Kevin Coyle, vice president of education programs at the NWF. "But what these schools show us is that you don’t have to wait for a brand-new building – a dedicated school community can take action right now with their existing facility to cut their environmental footprint and educate America’s next generation of science and conservation leaders.”

With the NWF's Eco-Schools USA program, schools are challenged to adopt environmentally sound practices and engage the community in creating an environmental plan. Schools can achieve several levels of certification: Bronze, Silver, and the highest achievement of Green Flag. All of the Top 10 schools have reached Green Flag status.

Check out the NWF's nationwide map to find Eco-Schools near you.

Mary Jo DiLonardo Mary Jo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.