The beginning of a new school year is exciting for everyone. For students, teachers and even parents, September is a time to try new things, meet new people and — perhaps, best of all — reinvent oneself. (And of course, by "reinvent oneself," we mean become a cooler, greener you!) This year, why not reinvent, a.k.a. green, your school?
Don't fret. It's totally do-able. We've gathered some ideas to help everyone — teachers, administrators, students, parents and bus drivers — make their schools more eco-friendly. Read on to get inspired.
Start With The Basics: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
- You can reduce the amount of paper, ink and toner your school needs by encouraging students and staff to limit printing and photocopying to instances where it's absolutely necessary. When printing and copying are essential, encourage people to use both sides of the paper.
- If your school doesn't have a recycling program, form a recycling team and set up a program. Most municipalities can recycle paper, plastic, and glass, at the very least. Make recycling easy for everyone by placing recycling bins right next to the trash cans throughout the school.
- In the spirit of reducing, reusing, and recycling (and sharing), host school-wide, dorm-wide, or classroom-wide clothing, toy, book, or video game swaps. Better yet, help students, teachers and parents connect with your local community by hosting a community-wide swap.
Clean Up The Air
- Schools can get pretty dirty, but you don't have to clean them with toxic chemicals. Talk to your school administrators or residential life staff about switching to green cleaners. Another way to keep your school clean and green is by making your school grounds as green (literally) as possible. Planting trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetables and whatever else will grow in your region will not only clean the air around your school, it'll also spruce the place up. (No pun intended.) Starting an organic garden is not only a great way to add fresh healthy food to your school's menu, it's also a great learning opportunity. Better yet, reduce the waste from the cafeteria by composting food scraps to create rich soil for your garden.
- To keep the air around your school clean, prohibit buses and cars from idling on school property. Check out EPA's National Idle-Reduction Campaign for tips on making your school a "no idling" zone. Encourage students and staff to bike or walk to school when the weather permits, and to carpool when the weather's lousy. If the camaraderie and exercise aren't enough of an incentive for people to use alternative forms of transportation, offer them something better like prime parking spots, dress down days, or a make-your-own sundae party.
Conserve Energy And Water
- Remind students and teachers to turn off the lights when they leave a room, to turn off the water when they're done using the tap, and turn off computers at the end of the day. Even better, ask students to create signs to post throughout the school as friendly reminders to conserve energy and water. If your school budget allows, install motion sensors on lights and faucets to help conserve resources. In rooms that receive a lot of sunlight, there's no need to turn on the lights on a sunny day. In fact, research has found that students in classrooms with more daylight are more likely to be higher achievers than those with less daylight.
- If you've got the ability to pull off an awesome fundraising drive — or if you've got a big budget — take your school off the grid. Start with an energy audit to identify the real energy suckers, then consider switching part, or all, of your power to alternative forms like wind, solar, or geothermal.
Do you have any tried and true ways to green the school year? Share yours in the comments below!