Go Green in the Classroom January 20 2009

Teach Students to Take Part in Saving the Environment

"Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children."  -Ancient proverb

The world has a fixed amount of natural resources - some of which are already depleted. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the world population is expanding at a mind-boggling rate. The world reached 1 billion people by 1800; 2 billion by 1922; and over 6 billion by 2000. It is estimated that the population will swell to over 9 billion by 2050. That means that if the world’s natural resources were evenly distributed, people in 2050 will only have 25% of the resources per capita that people in 1950 had.

Landfills are fast becoming full and overflowing. Incinerators pump contaminants into the air. Communities are battling over who will accept the nation's trash. Global warming is a growing concern and more and more animals are being placed on the endangered species list. The world’s rainforests are shrinking and large amounts of deforestation are taking place.

What can we do about it right now?

How you can help teach kids about conservation and eco issues in the classroom.Schools can serve as a catalyst for the entire community. Educating our children and teaching principles of environmentally responsible behaviors will have a long-term impact on the environment. Our children are the next generation of business owners and government officials. We can equip them with the knowledge and skills they will need in the future to manage the complexities of the environmental impact inherent in all activities.

If schools embrace environmentally responsible behaviors, there will be an immediate impact on their communities' contribution to the local landfill. Schools represent a large sector of the waste producers in this country, and they are typically some of the larger institutions in every municipality. Parents who see recycling in the classrooms often report reinforcing that behavior at home, and working to institute recycling at work, as well. City governments who support the efforts of their Go Green schools often look for ways to expand recycling and waste reduction efforts citywide. For more information on starting a school-wide program visit: http://www.gogreeninitiative.org/

Recycle, Re-use, Reduce: Not only will it help the environment, it can generate income for your school!

1.  Start a Waste-Free Lunch Program

For every ton of paper that is recycled, the following is saved: 7,000 gallons of water; 380 gallons of oil; and enough electricity to power an average house for six months. Despite the growing trend to recycle aluminum Americans alone still  throw away enough aluminum to duplicate the full commercial air fleet of the United States.  One recycled can saves enough energy to run a computer for 3 hours.

Berkeley Unified School District in Alameda County increased recycling during the past school year. Four Berkeley schools were able to decrease their garbage pickups, saving between $2,000 and $3,000 dollars. The district obtained recycling bins for aluminum and cardboard lunch trays, glass bottles and aluminum cans, and mixed paper. For more information on how to start a lunch program at your school: http://www.wastefreelunches.org/

2. Start a Printer Cartridge and Cell Phone Recycling Drive

Did you know that if all of the empty cartridges that are thrown away each year were stacked end to end, they would circle the earth! Each year, over 600 million ink cartridges are consumed in the United States. Despite availability to recycle them for cash, only a small fraction of empty ink cartridges are recycled, most of them still end up in landfills.

Leaking ink from used cartridges can pollute the environment, and the plastic they're made of will take many generations to decompose. Up to three quarts of oil are needed to produce a single printer cartridge.

Cell phones contain materials which are harmless during their usable life, but become a potentially toxic carcinogenic hazard to our environment when disposed of improperly. In addition, precious metals, flame retardant plastics, glass, and other materials are unclaimed for reuse when cell phones are thrown away. For more information on how to start a printer cartridge and cell phone recycling drive: http://www.greenschoolproject.com/

You can save the environment while earning cash for your school!

3. Teach the Importance of Paper Conservation

Did you know every year, Americans throw away enough office and writing paper to build a wall 12 feet high, stretching from Los Angeles to New York City?

Simple things like encouraging children to use both sides of the paper can make a huge difference. Take all the scraps from art projects using construction paper save them in reusable containers.  Have them do an art project only using the scraps and see how creative they can be! Use markboards instead of paper where ever possible to conserve.

4. Emphasize Energy Conservation by Starting with Lights in your Classroom

As a nation, we spend about one-quarter of our electricity on lighting, at a cost of more than $37 billion annually. Much of this energy is wasted using inefficient incandescent light bulbs. Only 10 percent of the energy used by an incandescent bulb produces light; the rest is given off as heat.

If you replace 25 percent of your light bulbs with fluorescents, you can save about 50 percent on your lighting bill. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL's) provide the same amount of light and no longer flicker or buzz. CFL's cost more to buy, but they save money in the long run because they use only one-quarter the energy of incandescent bulbs and last 8-12 times longer. Each CFL you install can save you $30 to $60 over the bulb’s life.

By setting an example in the classroom, the students will remember and most likely take home that knowledge to their parents.

5. Teach Your Students More About Insects!

Insects play a crucial role in the forests and global ecosystems. Did you know that 41 of the 50 states in the United States have officially designated State Insects? http://www.si.edu/Encyclopedia_SI/nmnh/buginfo/statebugs.htm

Insects perform a vast number of important functions in our ecosystem. They aerate the soil, pollinate blossoms, and control insect and plant pests; they also decompose dead materials, thereby reintroducing nutrients into the soil. Burrowing bugs such as ants and beetles dig tunnels that provide channels for water, benefiting plants. Bees play a major role in pollinating fruit trees and flower blossoms. For a cute and interactive website on the current plight of the honey bees go to Haagen-Dazs – Help the Honey Bees.

Plant a garden on your school grounds or area in front of your classroom  to attract wildlife, birds, bees, and butterflies.

6. Start an "Endangered Species of the Month” Learning Program

Teach about a different animal on the engandered species list every month of the school year. Overpopulation, habitat loss, and careless use of natural resources affect all life on Earth. Buying exotic pets and goods made with animal products threaten the survival of many species. Can we do something to help? You bet!

Even though some problems occur on other continents, there are things you can do to have a positive—or negative—impact very far away. Action at the individual and local level is the first step toward a global solution. Here are some great websites offering everything you need from activities, to facts:


7. Teach Kids about Renewable Energy Sources

Today's students are tomorrow's scientists. This site is loaded with games, activities, and energy facts: http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/index.html

8. Cultivate your own Awareness as an Educator

The National Energy Foundation presents outstanding instructional workshops for teachers throughout the year. They support teachers who implement our programs and materials and encourage them to take advantage of the opportunity to achieve their professional certification goals. Teachers who implement many of the National Energy Foundation Programs offered  may earn Professional Development credit: http://www.nef1.org/index.html

We have solutions in hand right now to drastically cut global warming pollution and cleanup the environment.

Act Now!

Put clean, innovative energy technologies to use, and enact policies to encourage their rapid, widespread adoption -- and we can stop global warming in its tracks. It starts with one person!