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How Schools can go green

As a parent of two children in two different schools, one with an ongoing greening programme, and another which is keen on becoming environmentally friendly, I have compiled a list of ideas that would be of help to all kinds of schools, and to all those who should rightfully be involved in the subject, namely, school administrators, teachers, students and parents.
Often much of the focus starts with the 3Rs of “Reducing, Reusing and Recyling” which of course, are very important. We also need to go beyond that, by creating awareness in children about an entire gamut of issues, how resources are used at school and at home, the global resource impact about what they eat, buy and wear every day at school and out of school, and changing the thought process in making better environmentally friendly decisions with respect to all of these. It is equally important for students to make an emotional connection with Nature, understanding local biodiversity within the region, and encouraging it within the school premises itself.
 

ADMINISTRATION

  • Get the school enrolled in a programme for environmental change such as the
    UNEP linked http://www.eco-schools.org/ connecting eco oriented schools.
  • Going green becomes one of the key priorities of the school. This is by having a dedicated staff for the purpose and/or keeping it as an ongoing collaborative effort in the form of a committee comprising of various representatives of staff, parents and the student council to form an environmental code, do an environmental audit, review areas for improvement, have a goal oriented action plan and monitor improvements.

SCHOOLS AS ROLE MODELS

In terms of resource use, the school itself should become a working role model so it shows students how to minimise wastage, and use greener alternatives.

Waste Management

Resource Use

  • Encourage a non-toxic cleaning environment for the school. Usually the cleaning of the school is outsourced, but it is important to evaluate the synthetic chemicals used in day-to-day cleaning by the cleaners, as it is the children and staff who are breathing these for the bulk of the day, and can develop allergies. The school should influence what kind of cleaning solutions are used, and offer suggestions for non-toxic ones, as these affect human health and the water bodies that these go to finally.
  • For better use of water, change tap-fittings, such as with flow regulators or aerators to conserve water. Ensure there are no leaking faucets and encourage students to close water taps properly.
  • Explore installing a rainwater harvesting system within the school premises, if feasible, to collect rainwater and meet at least some of the water use.
  • Conserve electricity, by switching to energy efficient lighting and certified energy saving appliances including airconditioning, photocopiers and printers. Encourage children to switch off appliances as they leave classrooms. Teachers and students should switch off their computer during breaks, and not just put it on sleep mode.
  • Consider meeting some of the energy requirements through renewable energy like solar panels, wind power. These models will also give students real life examples of applications of alternative energy within the school campus.
  • Reduce use of Styrofoam or disposable cups, by encouraging staff to bring a mug to school. Water filters could have paper or biodegradable cups. Minimise use of bottled water for staff and visitors which contributes to non-biodegradable waste. Bottled water is also a cause of depletion of underground water, and contributes to oil usage in plastic production and transport.
  • Find ways to reduce paper use, which is one of the main resources of a school. Print of both sides, and cut down on font size and use half a sheet if necessary
  • Go for green supplies with enlightened purchasing policies such as:

- Using recycled paper for letters, printing cards, brochures, study materials, tissue paper and paper towels or at least paper from sustainable plantations
- Encouraging use of rechargeable batteries, as they reduce the amount of harmful metals and compounds that go waste.
- Using the Website effectively as much as possible to reduce paper usage, and reduce physical storage requirements, with e-archiving. Send e-newsletters, weblinks and e-communication to parents. Consider using green data servers and webhosting

MOULDING STUDENT BEHAVIOUR

Resource Use

  • Encourage children to use pencils from sustainable forests (eg. Stabilio brand), or other environmentally friendly alternatives like neem pencils. Similarly, older children should use refillable pens, so that they minimise plastic waste from throwaway pens
  • Encourage children to bring in reusable bottles (preferably stainless steel like SIGG to reduce plastic use and risk of contamination)
  • There are a lot of chemicals in glue sticks that harm the environment in production. Consider wherever practical, using flour and water instead. Engage children to come up with innovative ways to reduce resource use especially poster papers, glue, ink, paints. Let them become aware of the synthetic chemicals in these, and how to avoid or at least minimise usage, or find good substitutes
  • Encourage children to check at the end of the period or the day (when they are leaving the room) that lights are off, water faucets are not leaking, fans, air conditioners or heaters are switched off.

Food

  • Encourage children to bring wholesome lunches instead of junk or processed food. Let them be aware of the health and environmental implications of these less desirable foods. Get children to do an inventory of food consumed during the week and compare with the food pyramid, and allow them to suggest changes to improve
  • Class parties should not be an excuse to bring junk or processed food, such as chips, biscuits from refined flours, chocolates with packaging. Instead bring fresh fruit, salads and homemade healthy foods. Classes can also have a healthiest snack competition
  • Offer more vegetarian and organic snack choices in the canteen. Encourage children to eat a less meat oriented diet, for home made lunches, as it is more humane and has less environmental impact. Children should be able to relate what they eat to the larger impact on the environment such as deforestation and global warming, and that they can make a huge difference to the world by simply changing the content of their diet. Practical alternatives and food guides should be provided.
  • Do not allow aerated drinks or soft drinks on campus, especially in the canteen or through vending machines. Only allow products without artificial colourings, preservatives and flavourings on campus. Promote “water is cool in school” and encourage children to drink plenty of clean filtered drinking water
  • Encourage children to bring stainless steel lunch boxes as PVC in plastic may contaminate food

Consumerism

  • There is a lot of peer pressure that translates into consumerism such as going after the latest design of clothes or electronic gadgets. Encourage children to think about the pros and cons of peer group pressure, unnecessary consumption and its effect on resource use of the world. Engage children in such discussions in class so they understand why they need not to succumb to this.
  • Allow children to discuss and debate so as to understand implications of various ethical and environmental issues in

-what they eat, in terms of environmental impact of dairy, meat industrial farming, pesticides and fertiliser use on global warming, and air, water and soil quality

- what they wear- synthetic and natural fibres and alternatives
- what they buy- use of sweat shop labour, meaning of fair trade, impact of globalisation, buying local
- Older children can be taught to evaluate ingredients in cosmetics, household cleaners, pesticides, chemicals and research alternatives

CURRICULUM

  • Impart practical Environmental education through hands-on eco-friendly projects, For some ideas see: http://www.edutopia.org/go-green
  • Invite people involved in various environmental programmes and careers to talk to students on different environmental issues
  • Organise competitions within the school and with other schools
    recycled materials, suggestions for eco-friendly school
  • Organise Eco-friendly field trips, nature walks, nature tours and follow up with how learning impacts their actions and to make the connection with Nature
  • Include a gardening period at least once a week. Children would love to get their hands dirty and also learn to nurture plants
  • Make it a compulsory and regular part of the curriculum to evaluate an environmental book or video, as part of the library period or science or social studies period. Older children should review famous environmental books such as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring or Jane Goodall’s Ten Trusts and environmental videos like the 11th hour, An inconvenient truth. The Eco WALK the Talk books section has lots of book ideas for teachers and students. Take a look at http://www.ecowalkthetalk.tv/videos.html for a sample of environmental videos on key topics
  • Enlighten older children about careers in environmental sciences, environmental economics as well as entrepreneurial opportunities

AMBIENCE & ECO CULTURE

Indoor
Encourage plenty of indoor plants all over the school and classrooms. Children of all age groups, should be encouraged to each bring in a small pot or share pots if there is less space, which they plant, tender and look after throughout the year. It not only creates better quality indoor air, but also nurtures a love for Nature within the classroom. The learning can be extended by helping them label the botanical names of the different decorative plants or herbs, or even vegetables like tomatoes and chillis that they can grow in small spaces. Children are excited to participate in such projects and watch with patience the result of their activities.

Outdoor

  • School playgrounds and walls convey messages of sensitivity to the environment, they should be well maintained, display works of recycling, environmental and social images
  • Encourage children to recognise biodiversity around them by enjoying, naming and recognising the plants and trees in their locality. Plant a variety of shrubs and plants. An Environmental Club can take the initiative to list down all the botanic names and common names of the foliage and even the insects in the school premises. Encouraging plant and flower growth attracts birds, bees and butterflies. Children can be made aware how these are diminishing due to widespread pesticide use, and how even a small space can bring them back
  • Encourage an organic herb garden which children should be encouraged to grow, use and learn from. Understand medicinal properties of herbs, and help create simple and varied salads from the herb garden. A small vegetable garden should be created within school premises for children to appreciate the plants that they often consume in processed form without knowing how the original plant, such as peanut, soy beans etc. Tips to create an eco garden can be found in http://www.edibleschoolyard.org/how_res.html . This will provide a hands-on learning experience for children about organic farming, as they learn to control pests, make and use organic fertiliser
  • Encourage tree planting within the school premises. This is a valuable lesson for children to see how we often need to do something that we may not see the immediate results or benefits or reap the rewards, but children of the school 10 years from now will appreciate what we have done for them

Community Involvement

  • Organise clean up campaigns of beaches and other parts of the wild. Organise various community projects for environment and social improvement. Get in touch with local environmental and social welfare agencies who would welcome students’ involvement
  • Raise funds for a community project or cause through eco-events at school
  •  

     

    Here is an inspiring video of a model eco-school in Bali, which highlights the philosophy of a green school. It is also able to incorporate green building features using local, renewable materials.

A truly green school “Eco WALKs the talk” and inspires a generation of students who become role models for enlightened behaviour, for it is they who will inherit our world. The children of a green school can readily make an emotional connection with Nature, and with their communities, local and global. They are thoughtful and conscious consumers of resources at school and at home. And when they step into the real world, they are inspired to become caring stewards of their communities, and of the entire planet.

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Posted by on Apr 25 2009. Filed under Green Buildings, Green Cities/Communities. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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