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How to Transform Your School Into a Green School

September 26th, 2011. Filed under Social Good

how to create a green schoolWhen we think about helping the environment on a community level, the usual things come to mind: recycling drives, cleaning up a park, advocating for better anti-pollution policies, etc. But there’s a new trend taking hold across the country (and even in some parts of the world): the green school.

The concept behind a green school is simple. Create a permanent program that focuses some or all of the following:

The 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Energy Conservation

Creating Green Spaces

Eliminate Toxins/Use Natural Products

Several different organizations exist that promote the green school idea, including The Center for Green Schools, Greenschools, Green School Alliance, and Green Schools Initiative. Schools may choose to partner with one of these organizations or develop an environmental action plan of their own.

One of the best benefits of the green school movement is that it involves children hands-on. It isn’t simply a passive activism—it requires everyone (students, teachers, parents, administrators) to be involved, though the level of involvement may vary with age or grade. Teaching children early on how they can make a difference by being good stewards of the environment will help them to grow into adults who have a better understanding of the issues facing our planet and a more instinctive need to protect it.

So how can you go about turning your (or your child’s) school into a green school? Develop a proposal to take to your school administrators with practical suggestions. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Energy Conservation

–Use a timer or motion sensor on lights in bathrooms, closets, or other areas that are not in continuous use
–Set thermostats to 68 in the winter and 74 in the summer for the most efficient use of HVAC energy
–Turn off computers at night and set their power modes to maximum energy conservation
–Change light bulbs used to CFLs

Reduce Toxins

–Switch to green cleaning supplies and avoid using toxic chemicals when you can
–Follow the EPA’s guidelines for Green Cleaning
–Provide BPA-free water bottles or drinking cups
–Use air filters to improve indoor air quality

Create Green Spaces

–Plant a garden that the students are responsible for. This can be done school-wide, as part of a gardening club, or grade-specific as part of a science and ecology class. Think beyond flowers—plant vegetables and fruits that can be harvested and enjoyed by the school community.
–Plant trees and natural vegetation outside to provide a shady spot to play or read
–Plant an “eco-roof” where tough plants and grass can grow, reducing energy consumption

Institute the 3Rs Program

–Place recycling bins in prominent areas, especially in every classroom
–Encourage students to use reusable containers for their lunches and snacks
–Ask children to bring in cardboard and plastic containers that can be repurposed for arts and crafts, or for supply items
–Use BPA-free reusable water bottles in place of paper cups
–Put tennis balls over chair feet to reduce the amount of wear and tear on floors, thereby reducing the need for strong chemicals to repair scratches
–Compost in the cafeteria and use it for your school garden!
–For more ideas for students, check out the NIEHS Kids Page

These are just some ideas to help you transform a school in your community to a green school. To read how one community built a green school from the ground up, check out this article from Greenspacetoday.com.

Do you know of a school in your community that is a recognized green school? Tell us about it! What ideas have they implemented? What other suggestions to you have to add? We’d love you to join the conversation below or on our Facebook page.

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