The Best Environmental Competitions for Students.

Posted December 18, 2017 by Joshua neubert

Environmental competitions are available to students of all ages and come in a slew of different structures and styles. Want your students to get introduced to ocean science? There's a competition for that. Want students to start taking on conservation or sustainability projects? There's a competition for that. Want to create videos, posters, or written research reports about environmental challenges? There are competitions for that.

In the list below we've identified our top environmental competitions for students of all ages. We group these into two types (Submission Based and Performance Based). There are great benefits available in both types of competitions that can help you and your students take the first steps in environmental conservation, or solidify funding for advanced project development! After years of researching academic competitions, we know that not every competition is the same in terms of what benefits it provides to its participants. The structure and design of competitions matters just as much (if not more than) the awards provided, by going to the competition's ICS database listing, you'll be able to learn more about the benefits of each program.

Check out our lists below to help you understand more about what kinds of environmentally themed educational competitions are available for your students, and don’t forget, you can search through our entire competition database online to find, filter and follow your favorite competitions.

World of 7 Billion Competition: this featured challenge in the ICS environmental competitions database helps students take the first steps into global change-making by researching challenges associated with global population change, and creating a video describing their solution to the problem. Check it out today.


Submission Based Competitions

ICS tries to organize competitions into common types that will help students, parents, and educators alike understand which competitions are best for them. One of the most common types of competitions  and awards are "submission-based." This is where students are required to create something and submit it to be judged for awards. These are typically less complex than other types of competitions, but also may not have as many awards or benefits built in to the programs. Check out the environmental student competitions that are submission-based here:

AIA COTE Top 10 For Students.

Students submit projects that integrate architecture with natural environmental systems, and technology to provide architectural solutions that protect and enhance the environment. The competition is for college students.


Architecture at Zero.

A contest for students to design zero net energy buildings based on an annual design brief provided. For College Students.


Future City Competition.

Students imagine, research, design, and build cities of the future that showcase their solution to a citywide sustainability issue. Past topics include stormwater management, urban agriculture, and green energy. The competition is for middle school students.


From the Bow Seat Contest.

Students create their own work of art, prose, poetry, or film that interprets an annual contest theme and advocates for ocean conservation. The competition is for middle and high school students.


NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest.

Students submit original and inspiring artwork from around the country for the shot at being featured in the NOAA Marine Debris Program calendar. This award is available for elementary and middle school students.


Beneath the Sea’s Ocean Pals Poster Contest.

Students create an artistic poster based on the annual theme. There are three types of entries that students can submit to the Ocean Pal's competition: (1) National Poster, (2) International Poster, or (3) Digital Image. This contest is available to elementary and middle school students.


Science without Borders International Art Contest.

This international art competition engages students to promote the need to preserve, protect, and restore the world’s oceans and aquatic resources. Students submit original artwork to the challenge that are reviewed by the foundation. This is available to middle and high school students.




Climate Law and Legal Governance Essay Contest.

Students submit Essays based on the themes of the Climate Law and Governance Day conference generally about how to create laws that will benefit the climate and environment. The contest is for college students.


Green Shorts Film Contest (for Southern California).

This environmental short film contest for southern California high school students asks students to create a film about topics in any of these categories: (1) Climate Heroes– People or communities making a positive climate impact, (2) Watertopia– Imaginative solutions for clean and sustainable water, (3) No Justice, No Green– Social justice issues, such as poverty, race and gender in relation to the environment, (4) You Are What You Eat– elements of the food ecosystem (dining, agriculture, supply chain, culture, etc), or (5) Wild CA– Animals, plants or natural systems found in neighborhoods or nearby parks. The contest is open to high school students in Southern California.


Hitachi Student Poster Contest.

Students should think of a problem in their community and what kind of robot they would design to help overcome that problem. Student posters will provide suggestions, in artwork form, on how their robot would tackle environmental issues, financial issues, food supply issues, healthcare, over-crowding, poverty, safety needs, transportation, unemployment, or any other need their community needs to address. Winning posters will be neat, colorful, and present clearly how your students’ robot concept could improve life in their community. The contest is available to middle and high school students in the Southern California area.


Imagine Tomorrow Competition.

This environmental sustainability competition challenges 9th through 12th graders to seek new ways to support the transition to sustainability. Students research complex topics related to sustainability, then innovate technologies, designs, or plans to mobilize behavior. They must create a plan of action to put their ideas to practice. The competition is open to high school students.


Jason Learning Recycling Video and Poster Contest.

Students in grades K–12 are invited to participate in a national recycling awareness contest sponsored by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) and JASON Learning. Students can submit either a video or poster submission responding to the annual theme. The 2018 theme is “Recycling is Bigger than the Bin!” Student videos should respond to the theme by promoting ways to recycle various materials. This competition is open to elementary, middle, and high school students.


Lexus Eco Challenge.

Students must develop a solution to an environmental issue affecting their community. They use their critical-thinking and research skills to come up with a solution and report on the results by way of an Action Plan submitted to the challenge. This competition is available to middle and high school students.


National Garden Clubs Poster Contest.

Students demonstrate through original drawings of Smokey Bear or Woodsy Owl their understanding of wildfire prevention and basic environmental conservation principles. Available for elementary students.


National Geographic Student Photo Contest.

Students take photos that capture the spirit of exploration and write a short description about the "moment" when it was captured. Available for Middle and High School students.


Project Green Challenge.

Each day throughout the month of October, a uniquely themed challenge will be delivered to students. Each challenge will be live for 24 hours inviting participants to complete actions and upload deliverables to acquire points and prizes. Deliverables include photos, videos, and text uploaded on the PGC site, as well as across TG social platforms. This is available to high school and college students.



Tunza Eco-Generation Environmental Essay Competition.

This contest provides children and youth a chance to show their love and affection for our shared natural world by writing an essay on the value of nature and submitting it for recognition and awards. This is available to high school and college students.


World of 7 Billion Contest.

This contest challenges middle and high school students to create their own inspirational videos about solutions to global challenges associated with population growth. Students submit their videos online to be eligible for awards and other opportunities. This is open to middle and high school students.


Young Reporters for the Environment.

Students submit entries in three media categories; Article, Photograph, and Video. Participants can choose one media category. Submissions must respond to one or more of the sustainable development goals. This is available to middle, high school, or college students.




Performance-Based Competitions

In this type of academic competition, students must create something, or do something that meets a challenge statement for the competition. Generally the student or team of students that score the best on how their submission performs win the awards. Generally, in the environmental competition arena, there are two types of performance based competitions: ones where students conduct a conservation/sustainability project and get rewarded for it, and ones where students create or engineer a solution to an environmental problem and are evaluated on how well it performs. We list both of these types of competitions below for you to review.


Brower Youth Awards.

Students submit an application identifying and describing their outstanding work in support of the environment. Students must have already performed a project in an area of environmental conservation to be awarded on of the finalist spots. The awards are for elementary, middle, or high school students.




Eco Hero Awards.

Similar in nature to the Brower Youth Awards, in the Eco Hero Awards, youth from countries around the globe send in their applications and explain their work relating to an environmental project they have started or been involved in. Then a panel of judges including experts in environmental science, biology and education determines the year’s top achievers. Students must have already completed (or at least reached significant milestones in) the environmental conservation project to be considered. The awards are for middle and high school students.


Genius Olympiad.

The Genius Olympiad is an international high school academic competition about environmental issues. It hosts projects in five general disciplines with an environmental focus: Science, Visual and Performance Arts, Business, Writing, and Robotics. Projects in each category take different forms, but all fall within the environmental issues themes. The competition is for middle and high school students.


TVE Biomovies Contest.

Students make a video about their activities to help combat climate change and submit the video for awards. Youth climate projects happening around the globe are eligible. The project can be in either of two categories: (1) Climate friendly and resilient cities, or (2) Oceans and climate change. The contest is for college students.



Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes.

This award celebrates and recognizes inspiring, public-spirited young people from diverse backgrounds all across North America. Each year, the Barron Prize honors 25 outstanding young leaders ages 8 to 18 who have made a significant positive difference to people and the environment. Students must submit an application detailing how they have conducted a project that helps people or the environment. The award is available for elementary, middle, and high school students.


NCF Envirothon.

This competition exposes students to diverse environmental issues, ecosystems, and topography. Teams compete for recognition and scholarships by demonstrating their knowledge of environmental science and natural resource management. Student teams are evaluated on their performance at each of the following training/testing stations−Soils/Land Use, Aquatic Ecology, Forestry, Wildlife, Current Environmental Issue. This competition is available to high school students.




NEED Youth Awards Program for Energy Achievement.

Students from across the country working in groups on an Energy Challenge designed to stretch their minds and energy knowledge. Want to stretch your mind even more? A limited number of spaces are available for a special two-day, pre-conference event which will allow students access to additional hands-on energy sessions, time to discuss energy with their peers, and access to industry professionals to learn about energy careers. These awards are available for elementary, middle, and high school students.


President’s Environmental Youth Awards.

PEYA has two parts — a regional award for Grades K-5 and a regional award for Grades 6-12. Students must complete an environmental project and submit an application for through their sponsoring school and teacher. These awards are available for elementary, middle, and high school students.



Seaworld Youth Environmental Excellence Award.

This award recognizes young people who take conservation action at an early age. Each year, it recognize the work of the next generation of conservation leaders.To be considered for the award students must complete and submit a written and video application describing their conservation work demonstrating their leadership in the field. This is available to high school and college students.


Shell Ideas360.

This competition is a global challenge to students to develop ideas to tackle the pressures on the world’s Food, Water and Energy resources. Participants first submit an initial idea. These ideas are evaluated and selected teams move forward to develop their ideas in conjunction with Shell Mentors and Subject Matter Experts. In the final stage, five finalists are selected to present their idea to a panel of judges. This is available to college students.


Stockholm Junior Water Prize.

Students conduct water related science projects that start at local or regional levels and advance to national competitions. National finalists are then invited to participate in the annual international Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition. This is available to high school students.


Young Champions of the Earth.

Students who have a big idea to protect or restore the environment; or who have a vision for a more sustainable future can be a Young Champion of the Earth. Each year, six young people – one from each global region – will be named Young Champions of the Earth. These winners receive seed funding, intensive training, and tailored mentorship to help them bring their big environmental ideas to life. This is available to high school and college students.


National Ocean Sciences Bowl.

Students use critical thinking in "rapid memory recall" questions covering the biology, physics, geology, and chemistry of the oceans, as well as related geography, technology, history, policy, and current events. Teams of students compete in a tournament (bowl) style competition to see which team can answer the most questions correctly in each match. This competition is available to high school students.



Gunslogon Environmental Design Competition.

Undergraduate students design engineering projects related to environmental conservation and biology. Students design a project to respond to specific engineering criteria and performance metrics. The contest is open to college students.



Junior Solar Sprint.

During JSS students design, build and race solar powered cars using hands-on engineering skills and principles of science and math. They develop teamwork and problem solving abilities, investigate environmental issues, and gain hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills. Students submit their own model solar cars and race them against others. The competition is available to middle school students.


Kid Wind Challenge.

Student teams create their own small scale wind turbines and are judged on how much electricity they can generate! Teams first participate in regional events held across the US. Then teams selected for the final program are invited to the national championship and tested in a large wind-tunnel. The competition is open to elementary, middle, and high school students.



Shell Eco-Marathon.

Shell Eco-marathon is a unique competition that challenges students around the world to design, build and drive the most energy-efficient car. With three annual events in Asia, Americas and Europe, student teams take to the track to see who goes further on the least amount of fuel. This is available to high school and college students.


U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

This is a collegiate competition of 10 contests that challenge student teams to design and build full-size, solar-powered houses. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends design excellence and smart energy production with innovation, market potential, and energy and water efficiency. This is available to college students.


Water Environment Federation Student Design Competition.

This contest promotes real-world design experience for students interested in pursuing education and careers in water and wastewater engineering and science. The competition tasks individuals or teams of students to prepare and present a design that helps solve a water quality issue. Teams evaluate alternative ideas, perform calculations, and recommend solutions in the form of an engineering report and presentation. This is available for college students.


The Institute of Competition Sciences provides information about all kinds of academic competitions free of charge to help more students get excited about learning! We unfortunately cannot guarantee the veracity of the information on our site about these competitions, so please (1) Report anything that is incorrect to us!, and (2) Always check the competitions official website to verify important information like deadlines and rules. 

Also remember, you can search, filter, and save competitions you like on your ICS portal, by using our database feature. So if you want to just see environmental competitions for high school students, or just engineering competitions, or anything else, use the database feature here!