Saturday, April 3, 2010

Turning Teachers Green

A few weeks ago, I posted my observations of recycling (or lack thereof) in my son's school. There was no recycling in the lunchroom and all food was served on styrofoam trays. Rather than just complain from the comfort of my soapbox, I decided to do some research. I'm happy to report there is hope for our school and any other school that's motivated.

First of all, I learned there is recycling on some level at the school (which is also a church). Each classroom has a bin where teachers collect all of the major recyclable items (paper, plastic, aluminum, etc.) and then they're sorted later into the large recycling bin on campus. That's great! We're half-way there already!

However, the biggest opportunity for recycling is going straight to trash because they've found it "impractical in the lunchroom." I'm working to get to the bottom of this and hopefully will find a "practical" solution. Stay tuned.

In my research, I was delighted to learn that Ijams Nature Center sponsors Ijams Recycles, a program where four AmeriCorps volunteers work with schools, organizations, and businesses to take small steps to be greener. Go here to download all their services. I sat down with one of those volunteers, Meredith Hess, and she energized me with some solutions (many simple and no cost) that I can offer our school.

First of all, I'm hoping our school will be open to an on-site waste audit; that would be a huge eye opener. Meredith also has suggestions for biodegradable trays that might be even cheaper than the scourge of the earth we're using now--styrofoam. I'd like to prove that recycling is not only the right thing to do for the environment but for our bottom line as well. Sacred Heart Cathedral School saved 40% in trash costs after starting recycling and went from 5 to 2 pick-ups a week. Well done!

As soon as spring break is over, I'm hoping to generate some enthusiasm for several earth friendly activities during April (earth month of course). Surely the librarian and art teacher will be open to letting Ijams present a few crafts and programs like "Landfill in a Jug" or "Magic Recycling Bag." Another simple idea is letting teachers pick one hour to have class "in the dark." I'm thinking snack time for kindergartners would be perfect.

I'm also going to suggest two of our teachers apply for one of the 2010 Energy Camps. They'll receive meals, accommodations, and a $500 grant for energy education activities, but they must apply by April 16. I know we ask a lot of our teachers, but consider doing this for your school. If you know a teacher who has a passion for sustainability or energy conservation, they might really enjoy this.

I encourage you to utilize both programs to help your schools. And if your school is already doing a good job, please share it in comments. And you moms in Pennsylvania, here's your chance to weigh in. How do your schools compare? I want ideas!

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