The U.S. Green Building Council’s Center for Green Schools released its inaugural “Best of Green Schools” list recognizing school administrators and government leaders for their efforts to create sustainable learning environments.

The USGBC Center for Green Schools worked in conjunction with United Technologies Corp. on the 2011 list.

Recipient schools and regions from across the nation were recognized for a variety of sustainable, cost-cutting measures, including energy conservation, record numbers of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified buildings, and collaborative policies to “green” U.S. school infrastructure.

“The Best Of Green Schools 2011 recipients represent high notes for the green schools movement over the past year and were selected from the thousands of examples of leadership we have seen from schools, districts, campuses, cities and states,” said Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC. “Tomorrow’s future leaders are in school today. This year’s designees recognize the importance of educating high-performing, 21st century leaders in high-performing, 21st century classrooms. Why green our schools? Three words: education, sustainability and jobs.”

The recipients were honored in 10 different categories. In the Moment for the Movement category, the U.S. Department of Education was recognized for its Green Ribbon Schools program. The Green Ribbon Schools is the first comprehensive and coordinated federal initiative to focus on the intersection of environment, health and education.

The Sacramento, Calif., area was recognized in the regional category. The USGBC said that Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has led the charge to bring together mayors and superintendents from across the northern California region to create a $100 million revolving loan fund for green school retrofits.

Ohio was honored in the state category for its 315 LEED registered and certified projects, including 19 schools registered in 2011. Ohio leads the nation with more green school projects under way than any other state.

Philadelphia was the recipient in the city category. The city’s school district made significant steps in 2011 toward the greening of the city’s 291 public schools.

Lake Mills Middle School in Lake Mills, Wis., was honored in the school category. In March 2011, it became the first public school in the nation to achieve LEED-platinum certification.

In the higher education innovator category, the University of Texas-Dallas took the award. The University’s new LEED-platinum Student Services Building, which was the recipient of this year’s Innovation in Green Building Award, was designed to improve departmental efficiency and interaction, includes terra-cotta shades on the building’s exterior to provide an energy efficient shading strategy and was built $1.1 million under budget.

Kentucky Reps. Jim DeCesare and Mary Lou Marzian were recognized in the collaborators category. This bipartisan team has led Kentucky’s green school efforts and is a model for teaming on green school collaboration. Together, they’ve worked with their colleagues in the state Legislature to unanimously adopt resolutions in support of green schools, and have encouraged other states to work across party lines on similar efforts.

Boston was recognized in the convener category. In September 2011, Mayor Thomas Menino hosted a summit on school buildings and child health, which brought together a team of interdisciplinary researchers to explore the connection between the two. Boston’s public school district is also home to one of the first Center for Green Schools fellows, a sustainability coordinator who will work within the school district for three years.

The Washington, D.C., City Council was the winner in the policy makers category. In May 2010, the Washington, D.C., council unanimously passed the Healthy Schools Act, building upon the district’s existing LEED-silver requirement and encouraging schools to achieve gold certification.

In the K-12 innovation category, a public-private partnership in Illinois was the recipient. A report outlining a plan to “green” all kindergarten through high school classrooms schools in the state was released in March 2011.

According to USGBC, green schools save on average $100,000 per year on operating costs, enough to hire two new teachers, buy 200 new computers, or purchase 5,000 textbooks. On average, green schools use 33 percent less energy and 32 percent less water than conventionally constructed schools. The USGBC also said if all new U.S. school construction and renovation went green, the total energy savings alone would be $20 billion over the next 10 years.

“Our commitment to green schools is a reflection of our belief in the importance of energy efficiency, sustainability and education,” said Sandy Diehl, vice president of integrated building solutions at United Technologies Corp., and a Center for Green Schools advisory board member. “These leaders are taking action today to help improve our schools by saving energy and tax dollars and by creating healthier environments for students and teachers.”