One Planet Schools Challenge


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.

See examples from past years here: 2018-19 and 2017-18.

2019-20 Submission NOW OPEN


One Planet Principle Categories

SMCOE's sustainability recognition and awards program is built around the One Planet Living Framework, which utilizes 10 principles that seek to make it easy and attractive to lead happy and healthy lives within the environmental limits of our planet.

Applicants will choose one of the six topics below then demonstrate how they integrate the principles of Health and Happiness, Equity and Local Economy, and Culture and Community into their projects.

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

Westlake Elementary Example

Protecting and restoring land for the benefit of people and wildlife.

Lomita Park Elementary Example

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

Woodside High School Example

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

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

Burlingame High School Example

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

Pescadero Middle and High School Example

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 & 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 & 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 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

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.
      • 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: