When summer, glorious summer, comes to an end, that means its back to school for millions of children and adults. This year, why not head back to the classroom in great green style?
Green schools are popping up everywhere, from preschools in New York City to major universities such as Harvard, Duke and Oberlin College. Both new institutions and old are switching to renewable energy, green building, and local and organic foods. They are boosting recycling, reducing waste and teaching environmental education.
At The Daily Green, we've put together this collection of articles to help you find the coolest green school supplies, pack the healthiest lunches and breakfasts, and help your schools make the greenest choices.
School supplies can be a significant expense, and they can have a substantial environmental impact. Luckily, eco-friendly options are now becoming more widely available in every category. For example, avoid backpacks made of nylon or new plastics, especially PVC (vinyl), and look instead for bags made from recycled materials or natural materials, such as hemp. Choose recycled paper and paper products made from alternative fibers like hemp or kenaf. You can also get cool pens, post-its, scissors and so on with recycled content.
Get your students or children on the path to going green with these fun, hands-on experiments. There are projects for students of varying ages, from elementary school to middle school and high school. Get tips for simple classroom gardening, a project that teaches about solar power, and some ideas for helping students conduct their own basic energy audits.
Before children can start learning and interacting with peers, they need to get to school. And how they do has an enormous impact on our environment as well as their health. You may be surprised at which modes of transportation are the safest for kids. We take a close look at school buses, walking and biking, "walking school buses," transit and driving. Find out what is best for you.
It's not just about reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic anymore; it's also about replacement (of the oldest buses), renovation (of pollution controls) and restraint (from idling). There's good reason for schools to make some changes, given that pollution from the nation's school bus fleet contributes to asthma, the leading cause of absenteeism from chronic illness. Learn how the Diesel Reduction Act of 2005, the EPA's Clean School Bus USA Program and various state initiatives are blazing a cleaner trail forward — although there are still many districts that need help.
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The idea of lunch brought to and from school might seem so '80s, but the use of an actual lunch box or reusable sack is back in style, and it is a great way to reduce waste (containers made of recycled and green materials are even coming online!). There are lots of other easy ways to make your family's lunches more eco-friendly, from cloth napkins and reusable dividing containers to crowd-pleasing organic snacks and tasty meal suggestions.
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Resist the trend to eat the most important meal of the day at the drive-through. Instead of filling up on high-fat sandwiches, overcooked eggs or sugary doughnuts, check out these creative and quick breakfast options, from money-saving DIY breakfast bars to easy fruit smoothies, portable sandwiches and organic coffee. You'll get a healthy start to your day, and leave a lighter footprint on the Earth.
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More than just a basic fill-up of calories, the morning meal provides important fuels for the brain, and even aids in weight control. Studies show that children learn and recall better, and concentrate longer, if they have eaten a healthy breakfast. Check out our tips for eating better, even when you are rushed to get everyone out the door on time.
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Nutrition Professor and author Marion Nestle explains why schools need to kiss junk food good-bye, both to combat the obesity epidemic and to foster healthier children. She says research "clearly implies that all foods sold in schools — no exceptions — should be foods that promote kids' health."
Courtesy of Middlebury College
If you or your children are considering higher education, it doesn't hurt to give a thought to the environmental responsibility of the schools you apply to. The good news is many colleges and universities are on the cutting edge of the sustainability movement, going way beyond simple recycling to starting organic gardens and farms, installing green roofs and solar panels, treating wastes with "living machines" and offsetting all emissions. Check out our list of some of the colleges that excite us with their commitment to going green.
Courtesy of Northland College
Learn more about all the specific green initiatives at colleges around North America, from the nearly 500 schools that have signed the American College and University Presidents (ACUP) Climate Commitment to go carbon neutral to programs that encourage public transportation, build bicycle lanes, establish green building guidelines and reduce waste. Many schools are also incorporating principles of sustainability into their curriculum and core philosophies.
Celebrity activist and Democratic Hollywood insider Laurie David talks to The Daily Green in the third of a six-part interview. The producer of An Inconvenient Truth discusses the Stop Global Warming college tour she and Sheryl Crow recently embarked on.
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"Organic Moms" blogger Alexandra Zissu discusses the environmental health questions to ask schools before enrolling your children in them. She also takes a look at first green preschool in New York City: LePetitParadisPreschool.com. That means good paints and toys, low flow toilets, organic snacks and more.