Green Your School!

We have searched far and wide to come up with tips and ideas to green your school. Our advice, start out with a simple project and build upon that to take on a more challenging endeavor. 

When you add up all of the students, teachers, administrators and custodians in schools across the country, the numbers may surprise you. Fifty-five million Americans (1 in 5) spend their day in a K-12 school. Get those 55 million people together and you’ve got a wide platform for environmental education and a powerful voice for change, Jenn Savedge author of ‘The Green Teen.’

The tips below are a good starting point to green your school. Don’t be afraid to reach out to local partners as well. Many communities have active environmental agencies and nonprofits who can serve as resources to help your school get started. 

  1. Start a green team: Join forces with other eco-conscious students to form a Green Team that evaluates the school’s environmental programs and brainstorms innovative ways to improve them. Green Team members can initiate a school recycling program, present environmental education workshops, or lobby the school board to replace existing light bulbs with energy-saving CFLs.
  2. Ban bus idling: A recent Yale University study found that students who ride a school bus are exposed to up to 15 times more particulate pollution than average. Why? The answer lies in the practice of bus idling. School buses line up and wait in front of the school with the engines running, filling up with harmful particulate pollution that will stay with you throughout your ride. Bus idling wastes gas, contributes to air pollution and global warming, and is damaging to our health.
  3. Use paper wisely: Try to avoid using excess amounts of paper at school. Be sure to use all of the sheets in a notebook before starting the next one, use the double-sided feature for printers and copiers.
  4. Clean up: Does your school use a bucket-load of chemical cleaners to clean and disinfect classrooms? If so, ask them to make a switch to eco-friendly cleaners that are better for the environment and non-toxic for the students, teachers, secretaries and administrators who spend their day there. Order the free guide from the Healthy Schools Campaign called “Green Clean Schools” and pass it on to your school administrator.
  5. Save on supplies: Before you head to the store to buy new pencils, notepads and binders for school, check to see what’s hiding in your desk drawer from last year.
  6. Use your legs: Walk, ride, carpool or take public transportation to school. Organize a “Walk to School” event for the next Walk To School Day in October. Check out  their site for more ideas.
  7. Conserve Water: Don’t leave the water running when washing your hands. What are some of the other things you can do to conserve water? Calculate how much water you use by visiting this Water Conservation calculator from the U.S. Geological Survey.
  8. Switch Patrol: Make it a habit to turn off TVs, computers, and lights when not in use.
  9. Don’t Brown Bag it, Box it: Use a lunchbox instead of paper bags. Use reusable containers instead of plastic bags.
  10. Create an Outdoor Classroom: Involve students in planting native wildflowers and grasses to attract birds, butterflies and insects. Use this area as a learning opportunity for students. Teach students to identify the plants, birds, butterflies and insects. They can create identification cards to display in the outdoor classroom and start their own field journals. Check out the how to guide for schoolyard habitats.
  11. Compost heap: If your school isn’t willing to start composting, you can create a mini compost pile outside your classroom to get rid of some of your garbage, though it’s probably a smart idea to make sure it’s cleared with the administration and fire codes.
  12. Check for leaks: Check your windows for insulation leaks and your faucets for water leaks, which can waste electricity and water. Notify your school’s maintenance department to have it fixed as soon as possible. Check out Michigan Energy Options for more ideas.
  13. Plant Trees: Plantings trees in the right locations can help your school reduce energy expenses. Learn more.
  14. Recycle Foam Lunch Trays: In California, elementary students pioneered a polystyrene recycling program. The school partnered with Dart Container Corporation to recycle foam lunch trays. You could also replace the foam lunch trays with ceramic alternatives as a Nashville School did.
  15. Green Art Projects: Use old magazines, egg cartons, milk jugs, tin cans and other household items to create art projects with your students. Not only will it save money by reusing materials, but students will gain an appreciation for repurposing items instead of throwing them out.

It Pays to Go Green

Nashville schools have joined in the rankings as they set aside funding for environmentally friendly projects. According to The Tennessean, schools are composting food waste, replacing polystyrene food service items with ceramic alternatives and installing energy-efficient lighting and geothermal heating and cooling systems.

Not only do the new additions serve as learning tools for students, but they have also saved close to $3 million for Nashville’s Metro school district, according to officials.

Did you know your school spends approximately $310.00 for every vending machine you have? If you take the simple step of turning the lights off you save $110.00 per vending machine and you cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, Michigan Green Schools.


Office Depot School Recycling Program

Michigan Green Schools

U.S. Green Building Council: Green School Buildings

Earth 911

National Environmental Education Foundation


Sources: Michigan Water Stewardship, Mother Nature Network, Teaching Tips


One response to this post.

  1. Demand more recycling containers at your school. Everywhere there is a trash can there should be a recycling container.

    Recycle Away is giving away $500 worth of bins to a lucky school or organization. Entries must be in by April 15th.

    see full details at blog:


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