Schools are teaching the next generation and this makes them an ideal environment to incorporate sustainable living strategies. Children can both learn about sustainability and see it in action if many of the available projects are implemented. The good thing with implementing eco-friendly initiatives in schools is that they often represent a cost saving as well as helping the planet.
There are many excellent initiatives for sustainability in schools put forward by local, state and federal governments around the world. These include adding environmental and sustainability studies into the curriculum from an early age and making grants available to help individual schools put eco-friendly strategies in place.
Going green for schools can be as simple as starting up a school vegetable garden, recycling waste or installing water tanks. These activities can be taken further by making the vegetable garden a kitchen garden and including the preparation and cooking of healthy meals in the curriculum. Recycling the school’s waste can include establishing composting systems and worm farms to use as fertilizers for the garden. The water captured in water tanks can be safely used to water the gardens, showing that water usage for the gardens is a closed circuit.
When a school adopts a whole-school approach to working towards being a sustainable school, the students learn many life lessons that may have been missed in traditional education. They learn to take pride in their school because they have a hands-on approach to many of the tasks required to become sustainable. They learn to work in cooperation with their teachers and peers to create a better school environment; they learn to make decisions which are relevant to them; they learn that it is possible to make changes for the better.
Sustainability education and practice in schools covers a wide range of subject areas. The most obvious is science, especially in the study of living plants and animals and how they are inter-connected. However, sustainability can also be part of writing and spelling, geography, history, current affairs and much more. The practical application of learning suits the less-academic students, giving them a sense of achievement at school. The outdoor component provides a healthy outlet for students who struggle to sit inside a classroom for hours each day.
It has been shown that sustainable schools achieve improved learning outcomes for their students. This is thought to be caused by several factors, including:
- Children help to solve real-world problems that they are then given the opportunity to implement.
- They are engaged in the study of more authentic topic areas.
- They have a sense of ownership of the school which creates respect for their peers and teachers.
- School is a happier, more fulfilling place and so general behavior improves.
There are numerous initiatives that individual schools can take towards become more sustainable. Here is a list of some of the simplest initiatives that a school can implement to start the journey towards sustainability:
- Reorganize the collection of waste in the school to separate recyclables, compostables and reusables from garbage.
- Find ways to reduce the amount of paper used within the school.
- Conduct a power audit of the school and look for ways to reduce the school’s carbon footprint.
- Adjust thermostats on heaters and air conditioners 1 or 2 degrees to save power.
- Turn out lights after school hours that are not needed for security.
- Turn off appliances, computers etc at the wall to eliminate stand-by power usage.
- Start a school garden – a native garden to attract local wildlife; a flower garden to improve an unattractive area; a vegetable garden full of fresh, healthy food.
- Look for ways to reduce water consumption. Install rainwater tanks to reduce reliance on mains water supply.
Sustainability in schools is not difficult to implement. It just takes some determination and commitment on behalf of the school community to get the ball rolling and then the students themselves will keep the momentum going.
So, if you have children, are there programs like this in their school? Or as a parent, can you think ways of how you might be able to encourage this in your child’s school?