Environment Friendly Schools: How to Make Your School Green

Students excited about recycling

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Green schools are not only environmentally friendly but also generate cost savings in the form of reduced water and energy use. The standard for environmentally friendly schools is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a framework for building schools that meet certain benchmarks for sustainability, and a certification that more schools are seeking to achieve as they upgrade existing facilities and expand their campuses.

Green Schools Alliance

Many schools are taking the pledge of the Green Schools Alliance to make their campuses more sustainable and to reduce their carbon footprints by 30 percent over five years. The goal is to achieve carbon neutrality. The GSA program involves 5 million students at more than 8,000 schools, districts, and organizations from 48 U.S. states and 91 countries.

All this work by schools around the world has helped the Green Cup Challenge to yield a savings of more than 9.7 million kW hours. Anyone can join the Green Schools Alliance, but you don't need to be a part of a formal program to implement environment-friendly practices in your school.

There are steps that parents and students can take separately from their school to reduce energy use and waste, and students and parents can also work with their schools to determine the school's energy use and how to reduce it over time.

Steps Parents and Students Can Take

Parents and students can also contribute to making their schools greener and take steps such as the following:

  1. Encourage parents and kids to use public transportation or to walk or bike to school.
  2. Use carpools to bring many students to school together.
  3. Reduce idling outside school; instead, turn off car and bus engines.
  4. Encourage the school to use buses with cleaner fuels, such as biodiesel or to start investing in hybrid buses.
  5. During community service days, have students replace existing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents.
  6. Ask the school to use environmentally friendly cleaning fluids and nontoxic pesticides.
  7. Encourage the lunchroom to avoid using plastics.
  8. Spearhead the use of "trayless" eating. Students and teachers can carry their food instead of using trays, and the lunchroom staff won't have to wash trays, thereby reducing water use.
  9. Work with maintenance staff to put stickers on the paper towel and napkin dispensers reminding students and teachers to use paper products sparingly.
  10. Encourage the school to sign the Green Schools Initiative.

How Schools Can Reduce Energy Usage

In addition, students can work with the administration and maintenance staff at their schools to reduce the energy use. First, students can conduct an audit of their school's light and energy use and then monitor the school's energy use on a monthly basis.

The Green Schools Alliance provides students with a step-by-step plan to create a task force and reduce carbon emissions over a suggested two-year timetable. Their helpful tool kit provides actions schools can take such as using daylight instead of overhead lighting, weatherizing windows and doors, and installing Energy Star appliances.

Educating the Community

Creating a greener school requires educating the community about the importance of reducing carbon emissions and living more environmentally sustainable lives. First, inform yourself about what other schools are doing to become greener. For example, Riverdale Country Day School in New York City has installed a synthetic playing field composed of cork and coconut fiber that saves millions of gallons of water per year.

Other schools offer classes in living environmentally conscious lives, and their lunchrooms offer local produce that is shipped shorter distances, thereby reducing energy use. Students may be more motivated to make their school greener when they are aware of what similar schools are doing.

Find a way to communicate regularly to your school about what you are doing to reduce energy use through newsletters or a page on your school's website. Get people involved in taking and meeting the goals of the Green Schools Alliance to reduce carbon emissions over five years.