Yeah, the kids are going back to school! This can also lead to added stress for eco-minded parents and students. Just looking over the school supply list gives me the shakes! Hand sanitizer, baggies, paper towels, tissues, wipes, waste, waste, and more wasteful items that teachers are asking for. There are legitimate reasons for many of these items, but for a parent who doesn’t use hand sanitizer or bleach wipes at home, this can lead to a little anxiety.
How can we as parents help make changes so that schools are just as safe and clean as our homes without nasty chemicals and waste?
While you may not be able to change everything at the beginning of the school year, there are some simple ways to help your school “go green!” Here they are.
1. School Supplies
If you’re already established in a school and know the administrators, you can talk with them about their school supply lists and make recommendations for eco-friendly supplies. Share with them some of the “simple” changes they can make. Do they “really” need thousands of baggies in the classroom? Or will reusable containers and bags work just as well? Otherwise, start with your own child’s list and make greener choices.
- Reuse any folders, binders, pencil boxes, and supplies that are still in good condition from previous years. We keep most of our crayons and colored pencils and will continue to use them until they need to be replaced.
- Select the “greener” hand sanitizers and classroom wipes for your child. Encourage your child to wash their hands instead of using the hand sanitizer at school.
Talk to your child about making “greener” choices and I’m sure they’ll surprise you.
2. Be a Partner
In order to see change, you may need to step in and volunteer your time. Schools, administrators, and teachers are already working at home and not getting paid for it. They don’t receive extra funding and hours to address every family’s requests. This is where you come in.
- Join the PTA/PTO or other parent volunteer organization.
- Present your concerns to the board and other parents, form a “green” committee, and decide which concerns can be addressed.
Being actively involved in your child’s school will also allow you to see some of the green initiatives that may already be in place.
3. Involve the Students
Find out what changes and causes the students think are important. Form an Earth Club after school and let the kids be responsible for starting up and managing some of the environmental programs like recycling or keeping their campus clean from litter. Let them organize eco-fairs, fundraisers, or fun events to involve the entire school.
Important Environmental Dates
- Walk or Ride Your Bike to School Day – October 10, 2018
- America Recycles Day – November, 15, 2018
- Earth Day – April 22, 2019
- Great American Cleanup – March 20, 2019
4. Research School Grants
You may be surprised at how many grants are available to schools and organizations that put in a little effort. There are grants for creating school gardens, for making healthier food choices, and for recycling. Share these grants with the administration and teachers in the school that those grants may help and offer to help where needed.
Did you know that there are eco-friendly fundraisers? Programs like Terracycle allow schools to earn money for recycling juice pouches, writing instruments, lunch kids, and other waste. Smencils (eco-friendly pencils that kids love to smell) offers schools fundraising programs. You can even raise money by selling reusable products that replace single use plastic sandwich bags and lunch boxes.
Remember: Change Don’t Happen Overnight
Some changes are easy and quick to implement, while others may take a while. Once you start to get other parents, students, and teachers involved, you may be surprised at how many like-minded individuals there are at your school. Be sure to take pictures of participants and and document their accomplishments in the student yearbook. It will give them incentive to keep up the good work!
What have you done to implement change in your child’s school?
Feature image courtesy of The Shopping Sherpa
Editor’s note: Originally published on August 20, 2015, this article was updated in August 2018.