There are millions of schools and millions of school children all over the world. Schools have to deal with many issues and the environment is not always at the top of the list of concerns. That has to change now, as authorities, teachers, students and parents have to understand the relationship of being environmentally friendly and being in good health. Good health physically of the students and the health of the planet. If you are a student, you should know how to transform your school into an environmentally friendly school. Here’s how to go about it:
15 tips to make your school environmentally friendly school
Bring back the fresh air
School interiors have poor air quality due to the aging buildings, and because of the poor air circulation. The air quality indoors reduces due to poor ventilation. Approximately one out of ten students suffer from respiratory problems such as asthma. So it is imperative to take steps and urge your school authorities to improve the ventilation. Open the windows on warm days and let the breeze come inside rather than being cooped in air conditioned rooms the whole time. An environmentally friendly school campus are healthier schools which have less students suffering from flu and cold and other viral, bacterial and respiratory tract diseases.
With the aid of students and parents, you can raise the required funds for air quality meter/s. These meters are highly useful to know the issues in air quality, high CO2 or moisture levels which contribute to the formation of mold.
Organize classroom cleanups
Be a proactive member of your class and organize classroom cleanups regularly. Motivate your friends, teachers, classmates and even parents to clean the cluttered surfaces, corners and cupboards which harbor mold and dust. Getting rid of the dust and mold will help to keep the air clean and trigger fewer attacks of asthma and more. Classroom cleanups are therefore one of the ways to have an environmentally friendly school.
Educate about green cleaning and maintenance
Cleaning supplies are made out of toxic chemicals. Cleaning solutions, paints, pest control poisons, chemical fertilizers used in the school garden, and furnishing finishes release fumes which have a negative health impact on custodians, students and the faculty. These chemicals can get in the surrounding waterways and pollute them.
You can do some research and find out the green cleaning solutions which do not have harmful, toxic chemicals. There are organic or herbal cleaning solutions which are just as effective. Organic manure or fertilizer can be used for the plants which would be great for the soil. Natural weed killers should replace chemical ones. Concerned students like yourself can even make herbal cleaning solutions from essential oils and more, right in your school. This would make your school into an environmentally friendly school campus.
Most students have a craze for fancy stationery, which are often made out of plastic. These are attractive, but add to the plastic waste which we should all attempt to reduce. Instead of plastic rulers, encourage your friends to use steel rulers, cloth pouches (which they can make at home or buy) instead of metal or plastic boxes.
Pencils and pens also contribute to waste. Plantable pencils and fountain pens which can be refilled with ink are better options. Spread the word not to use glitter, glitter paper, foam sheets, thermocol and other items which cannot be recycled for class craft projects. Use paper based sheets or paper for binding text books. Chart paper and cloth ribbons are better choices for classroom decorations.
You and your friends and fellow students can turn your school into an environmentally friendly school with these small but important changes.
Installing triple bins
Your school probably has three waste bins already, but if it doesn’t, then you must push for the introduction of three different waste bins for hazardous, recyclable and biodegradable waste. Workshops on different types of waste should be conducted so that students know how to segregate waste.
Then they would have enough information to educate their parents as well as other adults in their neighborhood. It would help the school to recycle and start composting and dispose of toxic waste in a responsible manner. Proper waste management measures will establish an environmentally friendly school facility.
One of the rules which many schools in the US has set is that students have to bring water as well as food in metal containers, and not in plastic or other material. This is a rule which can be followed easily by all schools and you might talk to the head of your school about its implementation. At college level, students living in hostels can carry refillable bottles for water and mugs for coffee refills.
A cloth backpack can be pretty useful to carry around reusable cutlery, plates, bottles and mugs. It might be a little unusual in the beginning, but reducing the use of single use, disposable plastic is one of the most important initiative for an environmentally friendly school.
Plastic disposable bottles are generated to the tune of millions of tons every year, which end up in landfills and the ocean. You can help to reduce the production of plastic disposables as well as supply will decrease if demand decreases. Sustainable bamboo bottles are another alternative to plastic ones.
Stop using plastic clean films and urge others not to do so too. Even the school canteen has to stop using these plastic films which again contribute to tons of plastic waste.
Organize local food days
The school canteen should be sourcing produce locally and probably does so already. To promote the local food businesses, you could organize food days, where they could bring local, fresh food to the school, once in a while. The students can learn about why they should eat food which is grown locally, such as there is less carbon foot print associated with local food, and food reaches you faster, thus retaining the nutrition and taste.
Besides, local farmers and other food businesses need support from the locals around them, their community, colleges and schools. Organizing local food days would be a fun, learning experience and make your school be known as an environmentally friendly school facility.
Set up green club
To get help to motivate others, you can start a green minded club where students who are concerned about the environment can become members. A club can work together to take action on many campus issues. It can create recycling programs, composting programs, organize planting trees/plants days, have a small veggie or flower garden on campus et al. All the students involved can learn about teamwork, as well as leadership and the ways in which a few people can influence and change the thought of many people.
A pleasant initiative in an environmentally friendly school is planting gardens or trees which the students take care. There should be small plants in every classroom, and these plants can be selected according to their indoor air purifying capabilities. You and your friends can take care of these plants. To begin with, you can plant plants such as cactus which are easily maintained.
Form walking, cycling or carpooling groups
Choose eco friendly alternatives to get to school, conserving fossil fuels and reducing emissions. Make friends with the community carpool or other transportation groups. Talk with your neighbors and find more efficient ways to reach school. If you live near the school, you can form walking or bike groups. This is better for older children, but always be careful about ‘stranger danger’ and other safety measures.
Suggest reduction of paper
Most schools and colleges can send email notes, instead of printing them. Printed notes and other study materials can be shared in schools. Online tests instead of tests on paper can save more paper. An environmentally friendly school can go virtual as far as possible. For those students who do not have access to computers or laptops at home, you can form study groups and help them out. Or ask the school to sponsor tablets, laptops etc to their students. Technology can be used to become eco-friendly, so make the most of it.
Ask your school to install energy meters
Installing energy meters in the school makes it easier for students to understand the use of energy and how to conserve it. The school can install water meters that would help to conserve water. There are instances of many schools reducing their water and energy use by monitoring their use.
Monitoring creates savings for heat, power and water budgets, and reinforces the important lesson of not wasting resources and using them reasonably. Your environmentally friendly school should install these meters to make financial and resource savings and also to provide a very important life lesson to students.
LED lights are durable and use only a fraction of the energy that conventional bulbs use. They are a little expensive, but they pay for themselves manifolds, due to the reduced energy use, as well as reduced electricity bills.
Students, parents, teachers and the school board can pool in to create a fund to install solar panels on the roofs of the buildings. If wind or other energy is more viable at your location, then wind or geothermal energy can be utilized. An environmentally friendly school should install some sort of renewable energy source to reduce fossil fuel use and also so that students see the use of renewable energy in real life, rather than just reading about it in text books. It would help them invest in alternative energy at home, and when they grow up.
A Bengaluru school chose solar energy as its main source of power. The solar panels installed in the school not only were sufficient for the needs of the school, but the school was able to sell it to the grid also. The students learnt a valuable environmental lesson in the process. With the help of the Karnataka government, the school invested 3 crores in the panels. The school has a biogas plant too, that helps students learn about it.
Make the forms virtual
Schools should take advantage of the proliferation of technology such as smartphones and create an app for every student’s records including health information. This would save thousands of paper sheets if the records are online and make it easier for parents to access them.
To make your school truly an environmentally friendly school, all the information packets and tons of forms can be electronic.
Have plays and skits on caring for the environment
Being eco friendly is a lesson that needs to be reinforced. Students will understand it better when they see it being presented in an appealing, attractive and informative manner. Messages in the plays and skits could be about recycling, reducing emissions and energy use, using local products and so on, and presented in a fun and engaging manner. This would sensitize students and they might begin to lead a green lifestyle and encourage their families and community to go green too.
Instead of using fireworks for celebrations to mark important days, create light and sound shows which produce zero emissions. Put kids in charge of projects such as these to generate interest and curiosity in them and enhance their creativity.
Spread the information
Your school may be an environmentally friendly school, but do the students and teachers know that it is? Spread knowledge about the various environmentally friendly measures of your school by having signs that tell the school’s eco friendly stories. This will make the students and everyone associated with the school proud and increase their enthusiasm to carry on the good work. Everyone will feel that they are on the same team and work for the benefit of their surroundings the whole time.
A school bright with sunshine, dust free, toxic chemical free and which is lit up with LEDs can be a clean, healthy place to be in. Small things such as going for fragrance free soaps in the restrooms, installing recycling bins, utilizing dry waste for decorations, eliminating plastic disposables and supporting local eco friendly movements can go a long way to create an environmentally friendly school!