How green is your child’s school? Chances are, if your child attends a public school like my daughter, it is not a very green place, especially if it is an older facility. Kelli has already written about ways to make your individual child a greener student in "Think Green For Back to School" and Chris Baskind offered Green Options readers "Five Ways to Green Your Child’s Classroom." But do you know your child’s school’s carbon footprint? Does the school district’s board of trustees know this information? Do you include your child’s share of the school’s carbon emission when figuring out your family’s impact on climate change?
Recently, I discovered a tool for calculating a school’s carbon footprint that was developed by students at Irvington High School with the help of DriveNeutral. This tool is an Excel worksheet that takes into account many factors, such as the student population and the number of days school is in session. It asks what percentage of the student ride in a car to school, the school’s electricity usage, methane from waste disposal, etc.. The table ends with questions regarding solutions, such as offsetting and recycling.
The questions asked by the SchoolNeutral tool are not easily answered by a parent, child or teacher, but research is required and a manual is available to download. This tool was designed by high schools students for high school students, but it could be modified for usage in earlier grade levels. In addition, it would make a great senior project for a high school student to help an elementary school class figure out their school’s carbon footprint. As World Changing notes, "What makes the SchoolNeutral calculator stand out is that it has been designed to help high school students calculate emissions generated by a large group of people (the first version focuses just on student population) who work together at a large complex (the high school). Most carbon calculators focus on the individual or household carbon footprint, but SchoolNeutral shows how to calculate much larger, collective footprints."
Knowing a school’s carbon footprint may be the first step in promoting change. Faced with such staggering statistics, school boards are more likely to make decisions that will reduce carbon emissions, and children will be motivated to do what they can in their own classrooms. Parents can easily be involved in the process, and fundraisers could be held to purchase offsets. Furthermore, schools can make the necessary changes to lower their own carbon emissions and students can be involved in offsetting carbon emissions on the school campus by planting trees and switching light bulbs, for example. In fact, you may even be able to get a carbon credit company to take on your child’s school on as a project.