Does Your Child Go to America's Greenest School?

More and more schools are making an effort to go more green. In old buildings, with dwindling budgets, busy teachers and limited resources, it is not easy. Is your school making a strong effort to be environmentally responsible? Does your school compost, have a strong recycling program, conserve energy, encourage reuse and carpooling?

At www.AmericasGreenestSchool.com, students can nominate their school in a 500 word essay describing how their school is green. Submissions should, “describe how the school shows its commitment to going green, how it teaches its students the value of green living, how it shows its dedication to green transportation or how it embodies the spirit of a greener planet.”

And the best part is the awards if your school wins (well, of course there is educational value in the process!), check out the environmental goodies your school will receive:

“Finalists will be announced after Earth Day and the public will be able to vote for their pick to win the title of America’s Greenest School. The winning school will receive a plug-in hybrid school bus from IC Bus, which surpasses the fuel efficiency of standard school buses by up to 65 percent and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 40 percent. The hybrid school bus has an estimated retail value of $200,000. The student who submits the winning essay will win a $5,000 scholarship. Sponsoring teachers may receive $3,000 to use toward educational materials.”

A hybrid bus, how cool is that? A scholarship for your baby? Oh yea. And 3,000 bucks for a teacher at your school would bring a much needed happy educational shopping spree to supply your child’s classroom. This is a win, win, win situation.

And part of this competition is spreading the word about how to green up your school. If your school isn’t as green as it could be, Terra Wellington, who is the author of the new book “The Mom’s Guide to Growing Your Family Green: Saving the Earth Begins at Home” and one of the essay contest judges shares a few tips:

“Ride the bus: Riding the school bus is a great way to reduce your school’s carbon footprint. The American School Bus Council estimates that each diesel school bus takes 36 cars off the road, which significantly reduces fuel use, emissions and traffic congestion. In fact, 3.1 billion gallons of fuel are saved annually by students who ride school buses instead of riding in cars.

Use both sides of the paper: Ask your teacher if you can print reports and other homework assignments “double-sided” to save paper. By printing double sided, your paper consumption is halved, significantly reducing waste.

Become a light monitor: Ask your teacher to use the classroom’s natural light whenever possible. When the classroom is empty, make sure lights are turned off and computers are in standby mode. A standby setting can reduce power over 90 percent, helping to conserve energy.

Pack a litterless lunch: Don’t use any disposable containers to pack your lunch from brown bags to plastic baggies. Instead, use containers that can be washed and reused. In a litterless lunch, the only items left over should go to compost, like a banana peel.

Recycle: Ask your teacher or principal about setting up a recycling bin for paper, plastic bottles and cans. If your school already has a program, encourage others to participate.”

In the school where I work we started a school wide composting program with the support of the local solid waste district and it is going strong. We’ve diverted thousands of pounds of trash from the landfill. And thanks to the efforts of a parent run committee, our cook, and community support our school cafeteria features more and more local foods. We still have lots of work to do, but every day, we are trying.

What efforts are underway at your school? Is your school America’s Greenest School, or not even close?

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