One Planet Schools Challenge


2018-19 Submission Window Closed

See 2018-19 Winners Here

The purpose of the San Mateo County Office of Education’s (SMCOE) One Planet Schools Challenge is to identify leaders who are doing meaningful sustainability work at districts and sites, and to recognize them for their impact on the greater community. This recognition and awards program fosters a culture of sustainability in school communities across the county by providing a structure and roadmap for achieving the vision of whole-school sustainability integration.

Click here for a quick guide on how to participate and see examples from paste years here: 2018-19 and 2017-18.


One Planet Principle Categories

SMCOE's sustainability recognition and awards program is built around the One Planet Living Framework, which utilizes 10 principles (see below) that seek to make it easy and attractive to lead happy and healthy lives within the environmental limits of our planet. When implemented within a school community, the One Planet principles provide a guide for schools to “be the change we want to see in the world” and support the transition of local communities to a sustainable and resilient existence.

Health and Happiness

Encouraging active, sociable, meaningful lives to promote good health and well- being

Equity and Economy

Creating safe, equitable places to live and work that also support local prosperity and international fair trade

Community and Culture

Nurturing local identity and heritage, empowering communities, and promoting a culture of sustainable living

Land and Nature

Protecting and restoring land for the benefit of people and wildlife

Sustainable Water

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

Local and Sustainable Food

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

Materials and Products

Using materials from sustainable sources and promoting products which help people reduce consumption

Travel and Transport

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

Zero Waste

Reducing consumption, reusing, and recycling to achieve zero waste and zero pollution

Zero Carbon Energy

Making buildings and manufacturing energy efficient and supplying all energy with renewables

One Planet Category Pathways and Levels

Within each One Planet Principle Category, there are three pathways in which a stakeholder may submit achievements to be considered for One Planet 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.
    • Curriculum: 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 One Planet Schools 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.

This structure allows stakeholders to identify the topics and areas of focus they are most passionate about, and be recognized at a level that most appropriately matches their resources and support available within that community. Finally, while schools can earn recognition in individual categories, achievement across multiple categories demonstrates a stronger commitment to sustainability and will be recognized and awarded appropriately.


Submission Leaders

The One Planet Schools Challenge is open to all PK–12 schools within San Mateo County and is designed to enable submission at any level, from any stakeholder: administrators, faculty and staff, students, and other community leaders. Once a stakeholder member has completed an action within a One Planet category, they can become a submission leader by following the submission process below. There can be multiple submission leaders from any school site, as a major goal of the One Planet Schools Challenge is to build capacity and to support a greater movement for social and environmental transformation in school communities across San Mateo County. Click here for a quick guide on how to participate.

Submission Process

Submission leaders will make ONE submission for each activity completed. If an activity is repeated in future years, leaders must submit each year to earn ongoing recognition. All submissions will follow a four-step process:

  • 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.
  • 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.



SMCOE’s One Planet 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:

These third-party verification program opportunities will be noted at the bottom of each One Planet Category page.