Sustainable Schools: How Recycling & More Can Benefit the Environment

5 Things You Can Do to Help Make Your School Green

Recycling. flashfilm/Getty Images

Terms like green schools and sustainable schools are very common today. The sustainable education movement is gaining serious traction as we learn even more about the impact of humanity on our planet and resources. The aims are laudable and the call to action is being taken much more seriously than it has in past years.

Unfortunately most of us take the view that being green is somebody else's responsibility.

The stark truth is that we all have to do our bit. The responsibility for being green is shared among all of us. But rather than become overwhelmed with macro issues such as carbon footprints, why not just do some really simple things which can be very effective if only we all do them? Why not teach students how to be sensitive to their environment? It makes so much sense to teach them these important habits while they are young. Here are five things that students and teachers can do to help.

1. Introduce Recycling Programs in Your School

Begin with everyday items such as aluminum cans and plastic bottles. Don't throw away cans and bottles. Put them in the recycling containers your school has for that purpose. Remember to wash any bottles and cans that contained food or drink, as food residue can ruin an entire load of recyclable material.

Don't forget to recycle your paper, too. We waste enormous amounts of paper in our homes, schools and business.

Keep a container for sheets of waste paper in your classroom. Encourage your students to use both sides of a sheet of paper. Teachers can even plan crafts activities which use recycled paper. 

Fortunately, the advent of single stream recycling has made this effort much easier than it has even been before, allowing paper, plastic, glass, aluminum, and other metals to all be recycled together in one bin.

Just remember, no wax coating on paper and always rinse off food residue or sugary liquids that may be present on your plastics, glass, aluminum, and metal recyclables. 

2. Make a School Project to Change Drinking Habits

Changing any habit takes thought and effort. But the new habit quickly takes root, if you will just give it a chance, and students can get involved in a school-wide project to change drinking habits to help make their school more eco-friendly. Rather than drinking bottled water, use the school's water fountains and reusable water bottles and mugs. Many schools now offer filtered water in their water fountains, and some of the newer fountains even count the number of bottles that have been saved by drinking from a water fountain and/or using reusable bottles for drinking. If you are a teacher, you might even consider investing in a filtered water pitcher like the ones Brita makes. 

3. Invest in Reusable Containers

Nix the plastic baggies when packing your lunch and snacks, and use reusable containers for whatever yummy foods you bring for lunch. It does take some planning and effort, but the payoff is eating healthy and not creating more container waste. If you pack a plant-based lunch, you will do even more to reduce global warming.

4. Make Your School Green by Preserving Resources.

Many schools have invested in sustainable development by adding automatic sensors into their buildings to aid in preserving resources. Installing timer-based or motion-activated sensors to ensure that lights are only on when necessary, and automatic sinks can greatly reduce the eco-footprint of your school. But, if your classroom or building doesn't have these tools, then simply turning the lights off when you leave a room and making sure to only run the water when needed can make a big difference. 

5. Research the ability to develop green buildings.

This one goes beyond the control of students and teachers, but they can have an impact on the future of their school. Classes can focus on ways that their school can alter existing buildings to be more green, and environmental education classes can be added to the existing curriculum.

Our world is rapidly changing, and our students are the ones who will be working to solve the problems our environment faces in the coming decades. Let's give them the chance to get started now. 


Article edited by Stacy Jagodowski

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Your Citation
Kennedy, Robert. "Sustainable Schools: How Recycling & More Can Benefit the Environment." ThoughtCo, Jul. 6, 2016, Kennedy, Robert. (2016, July 6). Sustainable Schools: How Recycling & More Can Benefit the Environment. Retrieved from Kennedy, Robert. "Sustainable Schools: How Recycling & More Can Benefit the Environment." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 19, 2017).