Turn Your School Green

A school building can leave a massive ecological footprint, polluting the environment through inefficiency and waste. If you're interested in making your school a little greener, there are many steps you can take. Pursuing even a single step from the following list will ensure that your school becomes a little more environmentally friendly.

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1. Start a Green Team

Whether you call it the Green Team, the Eco-Squad or the Environmental Avengers, a dedicated group to lead your school's green initiatives can go a long way towards providing leadership and direction. The group is stronger if it's broadly representative of the school, including students, teachers, parents, school staff and administrators. The group can create an action plan, including a timeline, publicity and more for your school's green projects.

2. Assess Your School

A key first step in greening your school is to get a sense of where you are today. You can utilize an assessment guide you find online. Among the things to analyze are the amount of trash the school produces, any signs of excess electricity use and any structural inefficiencies, such as leaky faucets or unsealed windows.

3. Waste-Free Lunches

The cafeteria is a great place to look for green opportunities. Encourage students who bring lunches from home to use reusable lunch boxes, including plastic containers for food instead of disposable bags. If your cafeteria uses disposable plates or silverware, see if switching to washable cutlery and dishware is possible.

4. Encourage Recycling

The volume of paper, boxes, plastic bottles and other easily recyclable materials a school goes through can be enormous. Make recycling bins readily available throughout the school. Don't forget to provide education on what materials are recyclable.

5. Conserve Electricity

Does your school leave computers or lights on overnight? What about the lights in vacant bathrooms? Could you have motion-detectors installed that automatically turn off unnecessary lights? Steps like these both help the environment and save the school money.

6. Clean with Clean Cleaners

What does the janitorial staff use to clean your school? Many common cleaning products contain hazardous chemicals that are harmful to both the planet and the health of those who might be exposed to them. Fortunately, there are many earth-friendly cleaners made from natural ingredients that are just as effective. For example, instead of dangerous drain cleaners, vinegar and baking soda can work wonders.

7. Create a School Garden

A school garden can be used to grow vegetables to be served in the cafeteria. This reduces the amount of food that needs to be shipped from afar. Even if the garden only produces a marginal amount of food, it can teach students useful skills that they can take home.

8. Add Compost Bins

Diverting organic material in the cafeteria from trash cans to compost bins can greatly reduce the amount of trash your school sends to the landfill. Compost bins not only help the environment, they're also great science lessons. With a worm box, students can watch how organic material transforms into compost. Also, in addition to composting leftover food, you may be able to use compostable cutlery and dishware that will further reduce your waste.

9. Recycle School Supplies

The eco-friendly mantra 'reduce, reuse, recycle' is highly relevant when it's time to get new school supplies. Instead of buying new pencils, notebooks and other supplies, encourage students to reuse items around the house or school. When new materials must be purchased, focus on those made from recycled materials.

10. Incentivize Success

Turn greening your school into a competition in order to motivate others to participate. You can set up a prize that benefits the whole school, such as a party, for reaching a particular milestone. You can also look for an organization that supports green initiatives with prizes, such as DoSomething.org.

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