School days, Golden Rules days, time to prepare the kids for school the green and healthy way. Can you believe that summer is almost over and time for the kids to go back to school? Want to help your child reduce their environmental footprint?
Since most kids spend a large portion of their waking hours in school, it makes sense to start there, doesn’t it? Now that another school year is about to begin, it’s time to think about practical ways to green up our kids’ school experience.
Let’s start with a few of the daily items and routines that are familiar to every school child, and see how you can make them greener:
1. School supplies. For many families, “back to school” translates directly to “shopping spree.” Many schools even send home checklists of items your kids are required to have. But before you hit the stores, stop to assess what items you really need.
- Do you have barely-used notebooks left over from last year? A drawer full of perfectly good pencils and pens?
- Re-using such items saves money and resources and means less carbon burned in manufacture and transportation.
- If you do have to buy new, look for greener options like recycled paper notebooks or FSC certified pencils.
2. Clothing. Of course your child will need new clothes for school. Just like school supplies, re-using is a great eco-friendly option.
- You can often find very nice clothes at kids’ consignment shops. Thrift stores and garage sales are also good bets. Or, get a group of families together for a clothing swap. Kids love to see their beloved outgrown clothing worn and enjoyed by someone they know.
- It’s also nice to have a new outfit or two to start the school year in style. While eco-friendly kids’ clothing is hard to come by, a few companies do offer organic or sustainable clothes for kids. Search for them online.
- If you live close to your kids’ school, encourage them to walk or bike.
- If you are concerned about safety, arrange to have a group of neighborhood kids walk together, or alter your morning workout schedule to include a walk or bike ride to school with your child.
- If your child rides the bus to school, do your best to help them be on time for it each day to prevent extra car trips to school.
4. Lunch. Most school lunch menus don’t include eco-friendly options. Your school may even use disposable plates and silverware.
The easiest way to green up your child’s lunch:
- Is to pack them one from home. Make their lunch special but healthy, simple and fun.
- Let your child pick out a nice reusable lunch box. Bento boxes are especially popular these days.
- Then, fill it each day with fresh local fruits and vegetables, and organic sandwiches and treats that are not filled with chemical additives and processed sugar.
Make sure they have the proper fuel for their bodies and mind to function at their best.
While it’s great to green up your child’s school routine, you can make an even bigger difference by encouraging green changes in the school community. The next three tips cover how to encourage green changes at your child’s school or throughout your district.
5. Research your school. Many districts across the country are starting to wise up to sustainable practices.
- Search for media articles on your school, and ask your school’s teachers and staff what the school is doing to protect the environment. You may be pleasantly surprised.
- If you find there is a lot going on, ask what you can do to help. Most schools welcome volunteers! If your school is not yet involved in green activities, why not get them started?
- The first step is to find out what your school or community does consider important, and/or problems they may be experiencing.
- Perhaps the school is under budget pressures. Or, you may find that there is a high rate of obesity or asthma amongst kids in your district.
6. Get the school involved.
- Once you know what the issues are, go to your school board or principal and explain why it’s important to go green, how easy it can be, and how doing so can support their agenda or solve their problems.
- Tell them how other schools have already benefited. For example, one school district has saved over $1 million by turning out lights!
- Once you get their attention, school officials can usually see that recycling, energy efficiency, composting and renewable energy can all help the school budget while providing excellent hands-on educational opportunities for kids.
7. Start a Green Team for your school.
- Get the kids in your school involved. Ask them to come up with ideas for greening up their school, and then support them to make it happen. You may be amazed at what they can imagine and accomplish!
- If you need inspiration, check out the Green Schools Initiative for ideas.
Ryan McNeill is the president of Renewable Energy Corporation, one of the Mid-Atlantic’s largest residential solar energy companies – committed to installing quality, American-made solar panels and energy products for homeowners. Solar powered and renewable energy practices at schools are now a reality in many areas and he is committed to making our world eco-friendly and sustainable practices in every way. I hope you are too!
If ever there was a reason to go green, it’s for the sake of our kids. After all, they are our legacy. It’s up to us to give them a healthy world — and encourage them to develop the skills and wisdom that will enable them to pass it on to their own children and grandchildren.
What are doing to help your kids and school go green?