Whether a whole school is trying to be more environmentally friendly, or it's just a handful of students and families, every little bit helps to make the entire school year environmentally friendly. If your school is making strides to be eco-friendly, visit Missouri Green Schools to learn how your school can be recognized for its work.
If you have an aquarium in your classroom, when you clean the aquarium, use the water to feed your school garden and plants in the classroom rather than sending it down the drain. Draining the aquarium means taking out fish waste and decayed food particles. That water also contains helpful bacteria and all the trace nutrients plants need to survive, including phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium and iron. This “fertilizer” water can do wonders for the plants.
If your classroom fish should die, bury them in your school garden rather than flushing them down the drain. Adding fish to soil for added fertilization increases the garden yields and food production.
Back to School Shopping
Back to school shopping is very exciting, but before heading out to the stores there are a few things to consider.
- Take inventory of your school supplies from last year. Cross off your shopping list what you already have.
- Choose environmentally friendly school supplies, such as recycled paper and pencils, soy crayons, BPA-free water bottles and reusable lunch packs.
- Look for clothing with natural fibers or recycled material.
- Choose items with little or no packaging. Items are overly packaged create unnecessary waste that ends up in landfills.
Whether it is recess or gym class, if it is a beautiful day, ask to take it outside and get some fresh air! No matter where you exercise, there are some things you can do to make it more environmentally friendly.
- Use a reusable water bottle instead of plastic water bottles that end up in landfills. Several companies make hard plastic water bottles from recycled plastic, or aluminum varieties, that last a long time.
- Workout gear can be recycled by some companies and made into new clothing. Try to buy clothing made of natural fibers that are easier to recycle, or find clothing and fleece made from recycled plastic.
- You can’t get anywhere without the shoes on your feet, so look for a good quality, well fitting pair of athletic shoes. When they are worn out, consider recycling your athletic shoes through the Nike Grind project, which accepts athletic shoes from any company, and grinds them into rubber chips. This rubber, much like shredded tires, can then be used in tracks, playgrounds and tennis courts.
Many schools have started various types of gardens as a way to connect students with hands-on experiences in nature that complement nutrition education taught in the classroom. Encouraging gardening also empowers students to take an active role in their food choices, teaching them how to grow, harvest, prepare and eat healthy food. It is also a great opportunity to be creative and reuse and recycle items that might otherwise be thrown away.
- Use scrap tires as raised garden beds. After very carefully cutting off one side wall on a large tire, place the tire in your garden area and fill it with soil, manure or compost. Raised gardens can increase spring soil temperatures by 8 to 13° F over nearby soil temperatures at ground level. By using a tire, there is also the added benefit of the black, heat-absorbing rubber. When used as a raised bed, the tire warms faster and retains a bit more heat to help the plants grow.
- Plastic buckets, soda bottles and other plastic containers make excellent potting sources for small plants. Old dresser drawers or wooden boxes, metal buckets and washtubs, hollowed out gourds or an old boot or galoshes also make unique planters. As long as the containers have proper drainage and adequate amounts of sunlight and water, they make wonderful substitutes for a larger garden.
- Make plant containers mobile by using a roller skate as a base for the plant container, or using a child’s wagon or wheelbarrow.
- Metal and vinyl mini-blinds can be cut to make plant markers.
- Clean nylon hose are useful for tying plants to trellises or fences.
- To protect small plants from a late frost, cut the bottom off a milk jug and use the top to cover them.
Is the sight of fellow students throwing away perfectly good recyclables making you cringe? Cure the cringe by starting a recycling program. If your school already has recycling bins, encourage and educate classmates about the importance of recycling.
- In the classroom:
- Recycle old worksheets. If you have a recycling bin in your classroom, it’s easy, just use it. If not, ask for one to be provided.
- Notebooks are often thrown away because the first couple of pages are already used for a different project. Simply tear out and recycle the old pages and reuse the rest of the notebook.
- Outside the classroom:
- Get a team together to help the school recycle.
- Post signs in hallways about how and what to recycle.
- In the cafeteria:
- If your school recycles, be sure to look for the recycle symbol on food packaging and put those packages into recycling bins.
- If your school does not have recycling containers, ask your school staff about getting them.
- If your school has a garden, ask your school to start a composting program to reuse food waste you would normally throw away. Compost is a natural fertilizer that helps your plants grow better!
Whether it is a holiday party, graduation or sporting event, school events are a great way to reduce waste and educate students and fans about the importance of being environmentally friendly.
- Carpooling to the event is a great way to cut down on gas usage and spend time with friends and family. If you live close to the school or stadium, and the weather is nice, try biking or walking to the event rather than driving.
- To avoid using up the car battery for warming up in the cold weather or listening to the radio, dress appropriately for the season and look into solar or crank powered radios that do not require electricity.
- If food is on the agenda, use reusable flatware, silverware and cloth napkins or bandanas. If using reusable products isn’t possible, use paper plates and napkins with recycled content and biodegradable plastic cups that can be composted. After the event, recycle your paper, plastic and aluminum cans. If your school does not provide recycling bins, ask if a recycling area can be created. In the meantime, bring your own bag or box to the event for your recyclable items and drop them off at a recycling bin later.
- If you are going to the game and tailgating is on the agenda, you can make grilling in a parking lot environmentally friendly by making a few changes to the way you grill.
- Propane gas grills burn cleaner, but if you prefer a charcoal grill, look for lump brands made from sustainable forest timber. For the more extreme "eco-friendly griller," solar powered grills are gaining popularity and amplify the sun's rays just enough to grill those brats and dogs. They take a little longer to heat up but leave almost no environmental impact except the smell of sizzling barbecue.
- If the fire needs a little help getting started, use a chimney starter rather than lighter fluid to get it going. This cuts down on chemicals released into the air.
- When it comes to choosing what to place on your grill, visit your garden or local farmer’s markets for fresh made buns or bread and produce for grilling. If possible, also look for locally raised and processed meat. By shopping locally, you help reduce the amount of fossil fuel used to transport food long distances to your local grocers.
- Purchase condiments in bulk rather than single serving sizes to reduce waste.