Every one of us has the ability to make a difference on our child’s school campus by making a few easy changes to school policies and practices. This is a wonderful opportunity to have a positive impact on your environment, your community, your school and your child. Here are fifteen things that you can do to make changes at your own child’s school this year.
Start by creating a policy that at all school events, plates, cups and glasses must be either reusable or compostable. Be clear that disposable plastic and Styrofoam are no longer allowed to be used anywhere on campus. Provide information about where to buy compostables so that people are able to easily make this change. Here are a few options that I would recommend:
Nature Friendly Products
World Centric Biocompostables
At lunch and at larger gatherings, be sure that condiments and things like butter and cream cheese are purchased in bulk rather than individual servings. I just participated in a large waste audit where we had to pick through literally hundreds of tiny foil butter wrappers that were scattered throughout the food scraps and compostable tableware, all items that were on their way to giant windrows to be composted. If those wrappers had not been removed, they would have ruined the entire batch of compostable material. Imagine how much more difficult this would have been if there had been ketchup and mustard packets too!
Have well labeled recycling/composting bins throughout the campus with clear signage indicating what goes where in order to help both direct waste flow and to educate the children about what can and cannot be recycled/composted.
Conduct waste audits with each grade so that the children can see what happens when a whole school throws things away for a whole day. Weigh each type of waste to see how much of each there is and brainstorm about ways to reduce campus waste. This process will be very educational for the children and they may have some good ideas about the ways that they can help to be a part of the solution.
Encourage the copy room staff to print double sided copies whenever possible and request that they use 100% post-consumer recycled paper that is processed chlorine free.
Consider instituting a “Pack in Pack out” policy where anything brought from home for snacks and lunches either gets eaten or returned home. This allows parents to see what their children are and aren’t eating and also significantly decreases the amount of trash and recycling that the school must pay to have hauled each year.
Ask your school board to stop using water bottles if they are using them. In order to set an example, have them bring their own reusable cups and a pitcher of filtered water. Leadership starts at the top and if our school’s leaders are setting a good example, parents, staff and faculty will note it. This will trickle down to the students as well.
Host a Zero Waste Sustainability Event to create awareness and educate parents and teachers. Incorporate a chance to network, offer incentives such as prizes for those who choose carpooling in order to limit the amount of driven trips to school.
Make sure green cleaning products and practices are used everyday to ensure a healthy and hospitable environment for your child. Create a purchasing policy that states that all cleaning products purchased by the school must be green and non-toxic in order to protect your child from hazardous toxic chemicals.
Make sure energy saving features are enabled on all computers in the school, so that they go into sleep or hibernation when no one is using them instead of displaying a screensaver. This simple setting change makes the computer use much less electricity, saving money and greenhouse gas emissions
Pack your child’s lunch in a lunch box or some other reusable container instead of a disposable paper bag. Don’t stop there – put the food reusable containers as well instead of baggies, and use a Thermos or other reusable drinks bottle instead of a juice box or disposable milk carton.
When buying new furniture or equipment, look for products that have credible green product certifications such as Energy Star, Green Seal, Forest Stewardship Council, and Ecologo.
Post reminders next to all light switches reminding people to turn off the lights when they leave the room.
Make a policy asking students, faculty, and staff to unnplug televisions, computers, microwaves, and any device that is not being used. This stops devices from drawing electricity even when they’re turned off or in standby.
Push to prohibit electric space heaters. They use up to $1000 in electricity every year, increase cooling costs, and are a significant fire hazard.
Utilizing these simple and logical green solutions, you can create a sustainable foundation for environmental responsibility at your child’s school. Not only will you be directly contributing to an effort of sustainability, but also creating awareness and educating the leaders of tomorrow.
By Merryl Brown, President, Merryl Brown Events