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How to Raise Green Awareness at Your Child’s School

Green living is a hot topic in schools throughout the United States, and chances are good that your children’s school is already looking at environmentally friendly initiatives. As a concerned parent, you can help by (tactfully) raising awareness about all kinds of green issues at your children’s school.

Keep the focus on positives — make clear to administrators that you’re trying to help find solutions rather than calling attention to shortcomings.

Suggest ways to make things greener that won’t cost the school much money or that parents and students can support through fundraising. Consider the following ideas:

  • Recycling initiatives: Offer to provide recycling and composting bins, for example, along with presentations to students and teachers about how recycling works.

    • Paper: Encourage the school to use recycled paper and to install a large recycling container for discarded paper, magazines, and cardboard. In more than 20 U.S. cities, the Abitibi Paper Retriever program provides paper recycling containers and rewards the host with money toward fundraising programs based on the amount of paper recycled. If there isn’t a paper recycling program operating in your city, the Recycling Revolution program offers tips about organizing a local newspaper recycling drive.

    • Ink: It’s important that schools don’t just put ink cartridges in the trash where the plastic and ink residue pollute the waste stream. You can prevent this by setting up and maintaining a recycling program for printer cartridges. Several ink cartridge recycling programs operate as school fundraising programs, including Kartridges for Kidz and CURE Recycling. Refilling the cartridges may be an option if the printer warranties allow this; many office supply stores offer this service for a nominal fee.

    • Food and compost containers: If the school doesn’t have recycling containers in the dining hall or cafeteria, talk to the principal about getting some for cans, bottles, and plastics. Waste food should be turned into compost, so you should ask about designating a container for that, too.

  • Energy efficiency improvements: The Alliance to Save Energy says that schools spend more on energy than on computers and textbooks combined. So, saving money on energy can free up funds for use in other school programs. The organization has launched a Green Schools Program that gets a team of teachers, custodial staff, administrators, and students carrying out hands-on projects within the school to save energy through operations, maintenance, and behavior changes.

  • Carpool Web site: Involve the kids in designing a Web site to help parents connect for carpooling. The site also can incorporate walking and bus route information and other public transportation tips.

If you’re concerned that environmental issues aren’t talked about in classrooms, the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project provides a wealth of teaching aids for a range of grade levels about all kinds of energy subjects, from the types of fuel that can power vehicles to how solar energy can be harnessed in homes. Encourage the school to register with an environmental program that provides information and tips for making the school a greener place, such as the Alliance to Save Energy’s Green Schools program.

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