You put the effort in to help your kids practice green habits at home so why not help them do the same at school?!
In this post, I’ll share easy ways your school can be a greener school – and you can help make it happen!
Volunteer Your Time
Most public schools are stretched pretty thin and a lot of demands are put on the staff and teachers to fit it all in.
Learning about being eco-friendly is (hopefully) included in the curriculum but there is so much more schools can do – and that’s where help from parents can be invaluable!
One of the most rewarding ways I volunteered at my kids’ school was by working with staff and administrators to help our school be a greener school.
Our school had been practicing some eco-friendly habits to but I was hoping to help them with even more. Luckily, our school vice-principal at the time was on board.
Reaching out to your school’s PTA is also a good way to get started. It’s where parents can come together with school staff on projects that teachers aren’t able to fit into their busy schedules.
I started by putting together a pie-in-the-sky list of my ideas and a proposal for how to implement them. It was a great way to get the conversation started and move forward with a plan and some goals to work toward – and recruit other parents!! 🙂
Our school decided that one of the first items on the list toward becoming a greener school was to apply for a Maryland Green School certification through the Maryland Association of Environmental and Outdoor Education.
The goals of the program were, “to enrich education by integrating hands-on, inquiry-based instruction, to empower youth to practically apply knowledge at school, home and in their communities that reduce ecological impact and encourage sustainable practices.”
The certification process provided a great framework and structure for our school’s journey to become a greener school. It helped guide us through a variety of sustainability topics from planting a salad garden to educating students about how to recycle more.
While our certification was through a local state organization, a quick Google search results in two nationally sponsored programs.
If you are interested in working toward a greener school using a structured program check out these programs:
The Center for Green Schools run through the US Green Building Council
Eco-Schools USA run by the National Wildlife Federation
Start A Club
Another way to keep up the work toward a greener school – and get kids motivated – is to form an environmentally focused club.
At our school, an awesome teacher with an interest in working toward a greener school started the Green Team.
The Green Team was open to 4th and 5th graders interested in building enthusiasm, sharing the green message and acting as role models for the rest of the school.
Some of their responsibilities included:
- Writing, directing and appearing in How-To videos to help fellow students understand how and what to recycle in classrooms and the lunchroom
- Assisting with implementing any new green school initiatives like monitoring lunchroom recycling and composting bins
- Participating in weekly classroom recycling pick up
One of my main volunteer roles was to work with the Green Team. It was a lot of fun and gave me a newfound respect for teachers! :-0
A major effort in becoming a greener school was to reduce the amount of waste our school created and to dispose of it in more eco-friendly ways.
Here are some of the initiatives we took on:
Class & Lunch Room Recycling
The lunchroom is the place where most waste is produced so one of the first programs we put into place was sorting out as much as we could for recycling.
Our county already had a great program that supported recycling paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum, including a pick up schedule, so that piece was already in place. Whew!
One key to making this program successful was to work with building services staff to make sure waste stayed sorted and was dumped into the appropriate place for pick up.
The other key was to make sure students knew what items were okay to put in each bin.
To manage this we enlisted the Green Team members at the beginning of the year to help students sort their trash in the lunch room.
We also made sure each bin was clearly labeled with typical lunchtime items that went into each bin.
Download lunch room recycling bin labels HERE to help your school become a greener school!
The classroom is another place where a fair amount of trash is produced – often in the form of paper.
We made sure our classrooms were stocked with paper recycling bins and then used the Green Team How-To videos to educate classmates on how, where and what to recycle.
In addition, most teachers rotated the classroom job of Classroom Recycling Monitor throughout the year to help keep up the good work.
Glue Stick & Bottle Recycling Program
No elementary school project is complete without lots of glue! So, started a glue stick and bottle collection and joined TerraCycle’s Glue Stick & Bottles recycling program.
At the time, TerraCycle offered a free program which was great. All we had to do was collect the glue sticks and bottles, box them up, print off a free label and ship them off.
Unfortunately, now TerraCycle only offers a Zero Waste Box which is available for purchase. The cost does include the shipping charges but the box isn’t free.
This might be an item your PTA or school can budget for in the future if it isn’t doable right away.
Waste Free Lunch Days
Another really easy way to reduce waste is to designate one day a week as a Waste Free Lunch day. On those days, kids were asked to do their best to pack a lunch that produced as little waste as possible.
We sent email reminders to parents once a week along with helpful tips for packing a waste free lunch.
The year we kicked off the program we even counted the amount of trash we had each day of the week and compared it to the day the waste free to see our positive impact!
It wasn’t perfect but it was a great way to get students (and parents!) thinking about ways to reduce waste!
Used Crayon Collection
Just like glue, crayons are a staple at elementary school – and a great place to set up a used crayon collection.
It was really easy to implement and we ended up with just a few shipments per year. The biggest shipment was at the end of the year when classes were cleaned out.
We sent our crayons to the National Crayon Recycling Program at:
USPS: Crayon Recycling PO Box 683, Lake City, CO 81235
FedEx or UPS: Crayon Recycling 221 N Gunnison Avenue, Lake City, CO 81235
It’s no secret that encouragement is a great motivator and a great way to help kids keep up the good work. It was really important to us to make sure we were rewarding student efforts to help their school be a greener school.
We created the Green Star Recycling Award to recognize classroom efforts. Each week when classroom recycling bins were emptied, Green Team members did a quick check to make sure all was sorted properly.
If bins looked good, the classroom was awarded a paper green star to display in their classroom.
In addition, twice a year, classes that met a minimum number of Green Star awards were treated to a popsicle party! BTW, we made sure the minimum was a totally doable number and in most cases, almost the entire school made the cut!
Ready For A Greener School?
Those are just a few quick ideas that you can easily implement to have a greener school.
Once you have the support from your school’s staff and administration you are on your way!
I’d love to hear your ideas and how you help your school be a greener school!