How to Green Your School in 5 Creative Steps

  If your school’s environmental activities seem a little boring, formulaic, or under-achieving, read these ideas for going green at school. With an emphasis on fun and community, these 5 creative steps will get everyone involved in activities like creating awards, choosing non-toxic school supplies, and working within a tribe to make your school more eco-friendly. If there has ever been an idea whose time has come, it’s the idea of taking steps to green our homes, schools, workplaces and bodies. Greening your school can not only improve the health of your students and staff and lessen your impact on the environment, it can also create a great sense of school unity and pride as everyone works together to put ideas into practice. Posters, t-shirts and bumper stickers beckon us to follow Gandhi’s words to “Be the change you want to see in the world.” What better place to create change than schools teeming with youthful energy, optimistic minds and helpful hands? Listed here are five simple, practical and creative tips to help your school step it up in going green.  1.  Create an inspiring school-wide movement An environmental club or eco team can serve to motivate students into action. Better yet, why not get the whole school involved? The student body can be divided into ‘tribes’ with unique areas of interest such as earth, air, water and fire. The earth keepers can focus on initiatives around waste and composting or school yard greening; the air keepers can source out ways to improve indoor air quality and increase school yard shade; the water keepers can target water conservation and those wasteful water bottles; and the fire keepers can ensure that energy from lights and computer labs is being conserved. Pep rallies, student assemblies and school-wide friendly competition can really create a movement that is active, diverse and unifying.  2.  Embellish the school halls An environmentally-active school is a visual feast. Creative bulletin and display boards proudly demonstrate plans, goals, achievements and photos, while student-created signs adorn the halls and classrooms. Doorknob signs can remind students and teachers to turn off lights and monitors, and ‘No Idling’ signs urge parents not to leave their car running in drop-off zones. Large thermometer-style visuals will help the whole school community stay on task to reach their collective goals.  3.  Buy safer products Give the students, teachers and staff healthier products to work with. Non-toxic school and office supplies reduce unnecessary exposure to harmful chemicals, and communicate that the school is truly committed to taking care of its students, teachers and staff, as well as the environment. Non-toxic markers, art supplies, cleaning products and pest controls will improve classroom and office air quality, a key component to thinking and breathing clearly. Not surprisingly, many green products accomplish several goals at once. For example, AusPen eco-friendly markers use non-toxic ink, they have recycled content (100% recycled and recyclable aluminum), they reduce waste since they are refillable, and they are cost-effective.  4.  Reduce waste and energy Start the year off with an energy audit to assess energy use patterns. Carry out a waste audit to calculate how much wet and dry garbage is being generated. Set goals to reduce waste and energy. Create a litterless or boomerang lunch campaign. Some schools have created a mock Hog Trophy, awarded to the classroom that has left on its lights or computers. The recipients would then be on the lookout to pass their unwelcomed award on to the next energy hogs. Other schools have presented a Golden Garbage Can Trophy to the class that has shown the greatest leadership in the 3 R’s.  5.  Create a culture of community Electronic communications, community-wide invitations to green the school yard, and initiatives like walking school buses will tell the neighbourhood and parents that yours is a green school, and that everyone is welcome to take part. Selling customized water bottles or safe lunch containers can help raise funds for other environmental activities. Of course, taking part in global initiatives and drives such as raising money to contribute towards clean water in another country will teach the students about world citizenship and the value of the resources we have in such abundance.  What valuable lessons the school community will learn in walking together towards a greener school.

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