Gamecock Express

Jacksonville State University's Gamecock Express bus service, lunched in 2009, was among the programs cited Thursday in award for environmental initiatives on campus. (Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star/file)

Jacksonville State University has earned a state award for teaching and promoting environmentally friendly practices.

The Alabama Department of Education on Thursday announced JSU as one of three schools to earn its 2018 Alabama Green Ribbon Schools award. The department honors schools each year for their approach to creating green environments by reducing environmental impact, promoting health and providing outdoor education.

“We’re really excited about that … we’re glad to do the work we do,” said Pete Conroy, director of the JSU Environmental Policy and Information Center.

Legacy Elementary in Madison County and Woodland Forrest Elementary in Tuscaloosa were the other two schools chosen for the award this year. JSU and the two elementaries will be officially recognized at the May 10 Alabama Board of Education meeting.

“The 2018 Green Ribbon Schools honorees are to be commended for their tremendous dedication to environmentally sustainable and innovative practices,” Ed Richardson, interim state superintendent of education, was quoted as saying in a Thursday press release. “They are leaders and important examples of all schools striving to prepare students with the 21st century skills … needed in the growing global economy.”

According to the press release, JSU was picked in part because of its Little River Canyon Center. Opened in Fort Payne in 2009, the center uses geothermal heating and cooling and educates the public on that and other environmentally friendly technologies.

“Having a sustainable building helps us to lead by example, but filling it with students and visitors is what makes the JSU Canyon Center successful,” Conroy said.

Conroy said the center has seen growth in visitors, from 1,400 students in 2016 to 4,800 students in 2017. The center is scheduled to receive 6,000 students this year, he said.

Other reasons for JSU’s award include the university’s installation of campus hydration stations three years ago that have saved 83,000 bottles of water by creating convenient fill-up points for personal water bottles. Also since 2009, the Gamecock Express, JSU’s diesel transit system, has reduced the need for student vehicles on campus, in turn helping shrink greenhouse gas emissions, the press release states.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.