Green schools are not only environmentally friendly but also generate cost savings in the form of reduced water and energy usage. The standard for environmentally friendly schools is LEED, a framework for building schools that meet certain benchmarks for sustainability, and a certification that more and more schools are seeking to achieve as they upgrade existing facilities and expand their campuses.
Many schools are taking the pledge of the Green Schools Alliance to make their campuses more sustainable and to reduce their carbon footprints by 30% over five years. The end result of all this work? Hopefully achieving carbon neutrality by 2020! The GSA program is in more than 80 countries around the world so far, representing nearly 8,000 schools. All this great work from schools around the world has helped the Green Cup Challenge to yield a savings of more than 9.7 million kW hours. Anyone can join the Green Schools Alliance, but you don't need to be a part of a formal program to implement environment-friendly practices in your school.
There are steps that parents and students can take separately from their school to reduce energy usage and waste, and students and parents can also work with their schools to determine the school's energy use and how to reduce it over time.
10 Steps Parents and Students Can Take
Parents and students can also contribute to making their schools greener and can take easy-to-implement steps such as the following:
- Encourage parents and kids to use public transportation or to walk or bike to school.
- Use carpools to bring many students to school together.
- Reduce idling outside school; instead, turn off car and bus engines.
- Encourage the school to use buses with cleaner fuels, such as biodiesel or to start investing in hybrid buses.
- During community service days, have students replace existing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents.
- Ask the school to use environmentally friendly cleaning fluids and non-toxic pesticides.
- Encourage the lunchroom to avoid using plastics.
- Spearhead the use of "trayless" eating. Students and teachers can carry their food instead of using trays, and the lunchroom staff won't have to wash trays, thereby reducing water use.
- Work with your maintenance staff to put stickers on the paper towel and napkin dispensers reminding students and teachers to use paper products sparingly.
- Encourage your school to sign the Green Schools Initiative.
How Schools Can Reduce Energy Usage
In addition, students can work with the administration and maintenance staff at their schools to reduce the energy usage of their schools. First, students can conduct an audit of their school's light and energy use and then monitor the school's energy use on a monthly basis. The Green Schools Alliance provides students with a step-by-step plan to create a task force and reduce carbon emissions over a suggested two-year time table. Their helpful tool kit provides your school with actions you can take such as replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights, using daylight instead of overhead lighting, weatherizing windows and doors, and installing Energy-Star appliances.
Educating the Community
Creating a greener school requires the education of your community about the importance of reducing carbon emissions and living more environmentally sustainable lives. First, inform yourself about what other schools are doing to become greener. For example, Riverdale Country Day School in New York City has installed a synthetic playing field composed of cork and coconut fiber that saves millions of gallons of water per year. Other schools offer classes in living environmentally conscious lives, and their lunchrooms offer local produce that is shipped smaller distances and that therefore reduces energy use. Students may be more motivated to make their school greener when they are aware of what similar schools are doing.
Find a way to communicate regularly to your school about what you are doing to reduce energy use through newsletters or a page on your school's website. Get people involved in taking and meeting the goals of the Green Schools Alliance to reduce carbon emissions over five years. Over 1,900 schools, public and private, around the world have joined the Green Schools Alliance and pledged to reduce energy usage, and your school can become one of them.