Tuesday, October 15, 2013

#Green schools: How do they do it?

Every school year I bi… uh, bellyache and moan about the amount of paperwork my children bring home. This year I thought I’d look around to see what other schools are doing to teach and act on environmental responsibility.

At the beginning of every school year I fill out forms in triplicate. In addition, each child brings home the same school handbook, planner and letters. My youngest daughter, who’s in the first grade, doesn’t use the planner yet. In fact, the planners often aren’t used until second grade and, depending on the teacher, it may be even later.

Despite any recycling I may do, I’ve discarded two handbooks (the third will be trashed near year’s end) and one planner. Over the past four years, I’ve discarded approximately 10 planners and handbooks. Without knowing the dynamics of every family, one can only assume how much waste that is per school year.

That’s just one category – it doesn’t include other papers and materials sent home about dancing, programs, afterschool activities, PTA meetings and conference (in my home that’s times two, sometimes times three).

At the time I started writing this, the school year had only been underway about a month. Two of my children had already brought home fundraiser packets, each Included a letter from their principal. Here’s an excerpt:

We get a very small amount per child… less than $20 per child. That comes to around $12,000 per year. Below is what we spend in a typical year:

    • $7,500 – copier & toner
    • $5,600 – paper
    • $1,500 – laminating supplies
    • $5,000 – general supplies (chart paper, dry erase markers, sentence strips, pens, pencils, clips)
    • $5,000 – Accelerated Reader Software and License
    • $6,500 – Study Island Software and License
    • $26,000 – total

As you can see, we need to make up a lot of the funding locally to continue current services…

To see that $5,600 is for paper and $5,000 is for general supplies, which teachers also request from their students, is a little … uh … annoying – disconcerting – puzzling... pick a word. One would think a recycling program and an investment into computer-based forms or, at the very least, developing a solution to decrease the amount of waste would be one of the first things to consider instead of raising more money to waste more resources.

In order to reduce waste there are, of course, recycling programs and ways schools can up-cycle. Being green can also involve a school-maintained garden where produce is utilized for school meals. There are several other things administrators can consider to reduce waste and their impact on the environment.

green-school-bali-logoThe ideal example is Green School in Bali, Indonesia.They were voted "2012 Greenest School on Earth," by the U.S. Green Building Council Center for Green Schools. The photos of the school and its grounds are beautiful. You explore that on their site GreenSchool.org.

For schools to even get close to that kind of commitment there is help at GreenSchools.net.

Come back tomorrow I’ll share more with you on the subject of green schools. Maybe we can learn more, work together and make a difference.