I fully believe that we as humans put our energies toward the things in which we are personally invested. Want a greener high school campus? Put the kids in charge.
Gather a group of interested students and have a teacher or administrator act as mentor. Let the students lead the group. Have them identify ways in which they would like to see the school improve its environmental footprint. Let them spread the word and recruit friends into the effort.
Have the students start by writing a mission statement for what they'd like to achieve with the group; name it. Then get those ideas rolling. Some suggestions might be:
- Food - compost food waste from kitchen, recycle food packaging, start a school garden and use the harvest to supplement the school kitchen and/or donate to the local mission or food bank.
- Trash - determine what is recyclable in our area, provide proper receptacles within easy reach, create a sign campaign to encourage recycling, work with city programs as well as Terracycle for more information on ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
- Air Quality - establish a no-idling zone in front of school.
- Energy - change bulbs to CFLs, turn off/unplug equipment, lights, and monitors when not in use.
- Water - install low flow aerators on sinks and low flow shower heads in locker rooms.
Most importantly, I felt, was to concentrate on education/outreach...
- Education/Outreach - Start an environmental movie or book club. Visit local sustainable farms. Visit the local landfill, recycling, and composting facility. Discuss current events like our new landfill, actions by the EPA/FDA/Congress, Earth Day, gas price increases, etc. Invite speakers from the community to come and talk to the group.
Let the students, as they learn more about the problems facing us, decide where they feel they can make a difference. And don't forget to contact the local paper and TV news station as you achieve your goals. There's no reinforcement like being recognized by the entire community (and what better way to get the parents behind it than to have their kids recognized publicly for their wonderful efforts).
Most importantly, however, go slowly. Have the group select one or two initiatives a year. Just like the rest of us, if we try to do it all at once, we get overwhelmed and are more likely to give up. But if we take it step by step, educating ourselves along the way, we become empowered by our successes and inspired to do great things.
So what about everyone out there? What green initiatives have you seen in your schools? I'd love to pass along more ideas to our local community liaison...