Environmental Sustainability

Greening your class:

Green School Teacher Tips, from TreeHugger.com:

  • Connect the Dots
    Instilling a sense of connectedness to nature and the environment–be it a forest, field, or urban landscape–is essential to helping fledgling TreeHuggers care about the world around them. To teach your students about global issues such as climate change and endangered species, look to local issues such as recycling, storm-water runoff, or air pollution. Making it personal and connecting it to your community makes it real.
  • Calculate Your Carbon Footprint
    Carbon and environmental footprint calculators help us see how much impact we have on the world around us. If everyone in the world lived like we did, we’d need five planets worth of resources to sustain life as we need know it! Using these online tools as fun games can really drive home the point of what kind of impact each of us has. Learn about your environmental footprint and check out some of our favorite carbon footprint calculators. Then create a plan to reduce your group footprint.
  • Conduct an Energy Audit in the Classroom
    You don’t have get too technical to teach your students about energy use; you can simply take stock of where and how you’re using energy, by assessing where in the classroom energy is going (and being wasted). A simple energy audit can help out. How many lights are on? Is there heat or A/C? Do the computers get left on at night? Determine where you can cut back, then create a checklist kids can follow every day. Adjusting computer monitor settings, turning the lights off before recess, have a “lights-off” hour once per week, and so on can help raise awareness. If you do want to physically measure the energy you are using, theKill-a-Watt is a great, inexpensive measurement tool.
  • Get to School Greenly
    Biking, walking, public transportation or the bus to school can all help reduce carbon emissions. Biking to school has even has health benefits and has been shown to be more important for kids than breakfast! Lead by example and try green transport options for yourself. Discuss with students their experiences in getting to school more greenly. What was better? What was annoying? Websites that can help include:

    • Cancel a Car
    • Follow Safe Routes for Kids
    • “Walking” Buses
  • Green Your Supplies in the Classroom
    Whether or not you have the support of your school, you can do your best togreen your classroom supplies by choosing environmentally friendly new materials when possible, and also starting a classroom program to collect and reuse gently used supplies from past and present students. If possible, choose 100 percent post-consumer waste recycled paper. You can also make your own notebooks from old paper.
  • Start a Zero-Waste-in-the-Classroom PolicySchool-wide recycling is a brilliant move…but implementing can be tougher than teaching long division to an eight-year-old. If your school isn’t recycling at-large, start a classroom-wide policy of “zero-waste.” Set up recycling bins (teachers, students, and parents can volunteer to be responsible for removal), audit how much rubbish is created in a day. Sorting trash (it doesn’t have to be gross) will help kids understand how much waste they are creating in a day, and where it’s all coming from. Challenge kids to pack zero-waste lunches by using reusable bottles, containers, and satchels, rather than disposable ones. Competing with another classroom to see who can reduce their waste output most is a great way to create healthy competition and less waste.
  • Grow a Garden, or Just Take a Nature Walk
    Creating a garden or “backyard habitat” on school grounds is great for experiential learning. Growing food and native plants can really help kids connect with the world just outside their door, as well as the food chain and sustainable agriculture. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation offers lots of great advice. If a garden is not happening, a romp around school grounds will help teach about natural wonders. Even in urban settings, trees, grasses, and wildlife abound. Get kids to pay attention the environment that is all around them.
  • Compost–Outdoors or In!
    Getting back to zero-waste, starting a compost pile is a great way to make the connection between food, waste, and the nature at work! If an outdoor composter is out of the question, consider getting a worm bin for the classroom. (It’s not as crazy as it sounds! Check out how-to tips for starting worm bins or get more tips at Instructables.)
  • Bring Nature Indoors
    Whether you’re in the city or the country, any classroom can bring plants into the mix. It’s easy to build a self-watering plant container and get kids growing right in the classroom. You can also bring experts in the classroom. Field trips can get complicated and expensive; often nature centers, recycling facilities, and so on are willing to send volunteers or staff members to schools for in-house demonstrations. Added lesson: Explain that bringing one person to many means cutting down on carbon emissions due to transportation.
  • Make the PTA Work for You
    Work with your community to identify group goals. From easy, inexpensive changes such as switching to greener cleaning supplies and swapping out light bulbs to major changes such building energy-efficient, green school buildings or getting local farm-fresh food into cafeterias, green changes often happen due to grassroots efforts. The Go Green Initiative, founded by mother and ex-PTA maven Jill Buck, has loads of advice. The group’s ultimate goal is to unite parent-teacher associations across the country in an effort to help bring environmental programs into the school via parents, while giving teachers more time to focus on using those programs in the classroom, rather than having to organize them on their own.

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