Shortly before election day, some 1,600 students, ranging in age from 2nd to 9th grade, completed a survey designed to get a kids-eye view of what should matter most to the next president. In voting for the most important issue, kids considered an imposing lineup of healthcare, war, immigration, and terrorism. The winning pick? Global warming.
But just because kids these days are more environmentally aware than ever before doesn’t mean that President Obama will make the issue of the environment his primary focus. Luckily, children (and adults) don’t need to wait for politicians to act to green up their world! Local efforts may be just a drop in the bucket in the fight against global warming and pollution, but getting your child involved now, whether at home or at school, will make environmentalism a way of life for the next generation.
Families across the nation have already taken steps to make their homes more environmentally friendly. But doing good at home isn’t the only thing that matters. “Kids spend more than half of their day at school, and schools consume a lot,” says Terra Wellington, author of the forthcoming The Mom’s Guide to Growing Your Family Green. Plus, getting kids involved in eco-efforts at school gives them great experience in organizing projects and rallying support behind a cause.
Want to get your child started down the road to a greener school? Here are Wellington’s top 5 things kids can do to help green up their schools.
- In Bus We Trust. A lot of parents feel more secure delivering their kids to school by car, but riding a school bus is actually far safer than riding in a regular car. Plus, the American School Bus Council estimates that each diesel school bus takes 36 cars off the road, when you take into account gas use, traffic and emissions.
- Take Pride in Printing. Double-sided printing is an easy and effective way to cut down on paper consumption. What’s even better than double-printing on your own? Mobilize the rest of the students and faculty to do it, too! You can ask your teachers to officially support double-sided printing, and put up a list of their names next to school printers to serve as a reminder.
- A Light Lesson. Schools use a lot of energy, from heating and cooling classrooms to providing light and power. Where can they trim the fat? From sunny classrooms that don’t need overhead lighting. “Kids can ask teachers to turn off the lights if there’s sunshine outside,” says Wellington. “Natural light is much more healthy for children and adults anyway.”
- Revisit Recycling. It’s an oldie, but a goodie: Wellington says that a lot of schools still don’t have paper and plastic recycling bins in classrooms and common areas. All it takes is to provide appropriate bins and place them in the right spots, and to make sure that school staff is behind the project.
- Nurture Nature. Even something as simple as getting a class plant can help kids get into environmentalism. “Bringing nature indoors gives kids an appreciation and understanding of it,” says Wellington. And that’s the beginning of a lifelong commitment to the environment.
Wondering how parents can pitch in, too? Here are some ideas on how to get involved in the environmental effort at your child’s school.
- Fundraising. Selling reuseable bags or having a community garage sale is a great way to reduce waste while raising money.
- Lunch. Make the switch from plastic bags and packaging to reusable containers that can be washed and packed again.
- Volunteer. A lot of schools are short on time and budget, so if you want something done, why not do it yourself? Volunteer a few hours to help set up recycling bins or replace light bulbs. You’ll be leading by example.