Back to Basics: Turning Our Schools Green

School and Sustainable Living?

When we think of the term “carbon footprint,” most of us don’t think of the little “feet” in our lives. No one worries about Little Jimmy’s Big Wheel emissions, or the occasional tyke who can’t reach the garbage can. But, when you get groups of kids together, every teacher and parent knows that a mess is almost sure to follow.
With school back in session, caretakers, educators, and parents, may be wondering if there are some simple ways to start spreading an eco-friendly message to youngsters. Perhaps, there are some of us out there looking for ways to encourage our children to develop green habits. So here are some ideas to help our kids keep their environment in mind at home and at school:

Ask questions!

When it comes to evaluating your school for “greenness,” cleaners, pest control products, art supplies and toys that may contain toxic elements are the first target. Looking for natural alternatives and examining any ill effects they may have on the children or the environment can be time consuming and expensive, but worth it in the long run. Some outdoor playground equipment may contain wood treated with arsenic and synthetic turf products can also contain dangerous chemicals. Discuss these products with your school officials to ensure they are keeping an eye on potentially hazardous substances.

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Image courtesy of photomyheart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

School’s Need Education Too

Obviously some elements of school require using resource- intensive products. Providing quality education is difficult without energy, water, and, of course, paper products. Unfortunately, there are few labels on school supplies, office materials, or toys to signify that they’re eco-friendly, so, when looking at these items there are a few indicators you may want to watch out for and teach your school’s administrators the same, such as:

  • Look out for items labeled “non-toxic”, “less-toxic”, “BPA Free”, and “phthalates free”.
  • Try to buy recycled, refurbished and re-manufactured supplies as often as possible. Reusable items, such as lunch kits, water bottles, thermoses, and mechanical pencils that you can refill are also smart ways to go to school green.
  • Recycled content products can be identified by the universal recycle symbol. Some of the most frequently recycled materials include paper products, wood, glass, plastics and rubbers.
  • Look for these recycled product labels when buying your children’s school supplies, and even some shoes and clothing are recycled! Thrift shops are also a great way to find school clothes without a trip to the mall.
  • Parents can also encourage their schools to invest in recycled items such as toilet paper, tissues, and paper hand towels. It is beneficial for kids when school hallways cafeterias make recycling bins available, teaching them the simplicity and value of separating recyclable goods.
Keeping Up At Home

Parents may also consider using existing school supplies from around the house before purchasing new products. Notebooks, binders, backpacks and folders are all reusable, Local thrift stores also receive many donations of used back-to-school items are an excellent way to find shoes, uniforms, backpacks, lunch kits, and much much more!

It doesn’t take much effort or time to find sustainable alternatives when it comes to making our school years greener. As an added bonus you get the opportunity to start teaching your kids early about the importance of caring for the planet so it will still be intact to appreciate when they grow up!

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