Were you aware that there is a Green School Initiative? Founded in 2004 by parents who were shocked to find out how un-environmental their children’s classrooms were, the Green School Initiative (www.greenschools.net) seeks to improve the ecological sustainability of schools in the U.S.
We’re a long way from the days of one room schoolhouses where children inhaled coal smoke or vapors from oil lanterns, but today’s schoolhouses have big concerns of their own. Other groups have also formed to advocate for green schools, including the Green Schools Caucus (www.centerforgreenschools.org), today one of the largest bipartisan efforts in the House of Representatives, and the Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS), a non-profit organization dedicated to making schools better places to learn. CHPS (www.CHPS.net) has created a deep library of resources to help schools better understand the connection between sustainable design and healthy educational environments and improved teacher and student performance.
The Sierra Club has published its fifth annual ranking of the greenest schools in America: read more at http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/201109/coolschools/top10/default.aspx
What Should You Be Concerned About?
It’s easy to be an informed parent, teacher or student by asking questions and targeting areas for improvement. I tell my interior design clients that a healthy home is the ultimate luxury; our kids deserve a healthy learning environment as well!
To begin, parents, teachers, school administrators and concerned citizens can examine their schools for the following:
- Toxic cleaning products that compromise indoor air quality
- Off-gassing materials (building materials that release chemicals into the air through evaporation)
- Pesticide use inside and outside
- PCBs that may exacerbate chronic conditions such as asthma. PCBs may be found in materials such as old caulking and fluorescent light fixtures. (Read more at http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/07/qa-just-how-dangerous-are-pcbs/)
- Wooden Playground Equipment treated with arsenic
Other areas to examine:
- Does the school have a recycling program?
- Are there carpool incentives?
- Is there an environmental curriculum in place for students?
- Does the school use recycled paper, organic cotton for sports uniforms or low-energy computers?
- Are there healthy school lunches, serving organic and/or locally grown food?
The US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards can be used as criteria by which to examine our schools:
- Sustainable Siting: site selection, alternative transportation, storm water management, urban redevelopment
- Water Efficiency: water efficient landscaping, water use reduction, innovative waste water use
- Energy & Atmosphere: CFC reductions (linked to ozone depletion), renewable energy, reduced energy consumption, green power, reducing ozone
- Materials and Resources: building and resource reuse, local materials, recycled content, certified wood
- Indoor Environmental Quality: indoor air quality, CO2, ventilation, low-Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) materials, thermal comfort, daylighting
- Innovation in Design
Treat Yourself and Your Kids to Healthier Lunches!
You can ensure that you and your children are eating as healthfully as you can be when you take care not only preparing their food, but selecting what to pack it in. Due to traces of BPA and other chemicals, plastic containers are not recommended for holding food, as chemicals can leach out of the plastic.
Visit www.needs.com for better options, such as stainless steel lunch containers, bamboo water bottles, and bamboo lunch bags!