According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, students spend an average of 5.3 hours in school everyday. It is important then as we clean up our homes to begin the change in schools as well. There are a number of things that we can do to get involved, but like everything in this process it is about simple changes that will create a lasting impact.
GET INVOLVED! Does your school have an environmental club? Environmental Awareness group? If not, it is time to start one. Creating a substantial group of people who care about the environment is the best way to create change. Establish a planet pledge for your school and get other people actively involved in the changes that need to be made. Have your school start a recycling program if one hasn’t already been established.

Pack it SMART! The lunchroom offers plenty of issues, but packing your lunch can solve the “mystery meat” dilemma. However, make sure to pack your lunch smart! Use a vinyl or lead free lunchbox and try to make it trash free. A packed lunch is no longer eco-friendly when it contains paper napkins, plastic bags, and plastic utensils. Use reusable chemical-free containers and silver wear. Another important item is the reusable water bottle. Again, opt for chemical-free containers like aluminum.

SUSTAINABLE supplies! When getting school supplies always think first of the things you really need… A new backpack and brand supplies every year? Not the best option, instead reuse that backpack and look for pencils and paper made from recycled materials. Did you use every page from the notebooks in years past? If not, start by filling those pages (front and back!) before buying new. For the things that you must buy new, make sure that glue and markers are non-toxic. These changes can really save money and create less waste.

Buy USED! College campuses everywhere offer used versions of their textbooks. Save money and trees by buying used! Websites like Amazon also carry plenty of used versions of textbooks. The best option for those that have it available is to look for textbooks and required reading in the school library!

Get WIRED! With the technology age it is common to use school websites and homework databases such as Blackboard for assignments. Try to get your school to use less paper. Ask that notices and forms be sent via email. Also, see if originally handwritten assignments can be sent electronically to reduce paper waste. For those that require a hard copy, recycle the paper when you’re done.

Get EDUCATED! Try taking an environmental studies class. If your school doesn’t have a class, talk to them about creating a program. Students really benefit from learning the effects their everyday life has on the environment. See if your school would offer credit for taking an environmental class at a local community college. The more education the more knowledge to create change!

BROWN nose! Bring your teacher a bamboo palm or spider plant instead of an apple! A study done by NASA found that indoor plants could help purify the air! Because buildings are designed for energy efficiency (and we’re glad they are) they are tightly sealed and therefore all of the chemicals leaching from construction stay inside. Breathe easier in class by offering to bring in a houseplant. Plants can also be a good alternative to class pets, less mess!

Ask for HELP! There are countless times when we walk into a public bathroom and see a dripping or faucet or running toilet. Make sure to always notify custodial staff! Five drips per second is the same as letting the sink run at a steady stream!

START a School-yard Garden! Not a long time ago it was normal to know exactly where the food on your plate came from… today kids should still be involved in their meals. They should know that tomatoes come from a plant not a can, and having first-hand garden experience would allow for greater understanding. Having a schoolyard garden will promote education on health and environmental issues. The Schoolyard Garden Initiative was created so that kids could learn educational activities involved with gardening and to supply locally grown food for the community. This really functions as experiential learning for the school.

CHANGE the School Lunch Program There are approximately 30 million children who eat at least one of their meals a day at school. This results in one tenth of the entire country consuming cafeteria food. 20% of total global carbon emissions are coming from the food system. This is important because so much of the resources are going to the cafeteria. It is time to clean up the school lunch program! With almost all of the food items in the cafeteria coming from packages, it is no wonder there is such a push towards more home-made meals. To make a change work with other parents, involve the school cooks, and speak right to the school management!