Your back-to-school planning can make a huge difference for the environment. Here’s why:
•14 billion pencils are made every year, many of which come from wood from ancient forests. •Americans use about 31.5 million tons of printing and writing paper each year, requiring 535 million trees (most from virgin tree fiber) and 12 billion gallons of oil to make. •In America, the average per-person use of paper is 660 pounds per year. It Japan, it’s 550 pounds. •Lots of single-use, non-recyclable supplies such as whiteboard markers are used in schools and thrown out each year, ending up in landfills.
Welcome students back to the classroom with these green suggestions.
Green purchasing •Buy paper and pencils certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Their logo ensures that wood products come from responsibly managed forests. •Select products that involve the least amount of waste (e.g. a refillable whiteboard markers). •Look for minimal, recyclable packaging.
Greener transportation options •Instead of traveling in a single- or low-occupancy car, check out your local bus schedule, carpool programs, and bike-friendly routes to reduce your carbon footprint.
Reuse •Take a look at the items you’re putting in your recycling bin. Can any of them be converted into reusable containers for the classroom? Wash out empty peanut butter jars, butter tubs, and other containers and use them to store classroom supplies.
In-class activities •Establish classroom jobs such as turning off electrical devices, taking out the recycling and compost, and watering the plants to engage kids in green activities. •Have students tell stories of their summer activities using the lens of nature (neighborhood, urban, or wilderness).
Classroom layout •Make it easier for students to properly sort materials for recycling, compost, and garbage by strategically locating and clearly labeling each bin.
Spread the word •Include environmental sustainability in your class welcome letter to students and parents. Suggest that they look for environmentally-friendly school supplies and reuse supplies from last year. •Create a Green Classroom Checklist and share it with other teachers.