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Extreme makeover: green schools edition

Put an environmental spin on your kids' education with these eco-friendly tips for schools.

By Karina Kinik

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Why go green?

Does the phrase “green schools” conjure up images of moldy classrooms and gymnasiums? Take a cue from the Mother Nature Network’s eco-lifestyle TV shows and get hip to the world of environmentally friendly makeovers.

Don’t know your CFLs from your CFCs? You may be wondering why your kids' school, or any school, should go eco. Because green schools are cheaper to run, healthier, and possibly higher-performing than conventional ones: A 2006 report by the U.S. Green Building Council found that such schools yielded $74 per square foot in savings from energy efficiency, increased attendance, and teacher retention. Other research has linked schools’ indoor air quality to improved academic performance — an important consideration given that half of U.S. schools have poor ventilation and indoor pollution (high levels of lead, asbestos, pesticides, chemical fumes, and mold). Finally, studies on “daylighting” and classrooms suggest that students with the most exposure to natural light perform better.

By working closely with school officials and staff, parents can help implement policies that will benefit students and classrooms while protecting the planet.

Karina Kinik is an associate editor for GreatSchools.

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Comments from readers

"Going green in MPS is ridiculous! The cooks use cardboard trays, plastic wrapped plastic utentsils, recently started using plastic cups for the fruit cocktail. The teachers NEVER shut off the coatroom lights during the day. Staff wastes more copy paper than one can imagine. They also use brown paper towels to wipe up milk spills in the rooms (they eat breakfast in the rooms everyday). How can we teach our children to go green when the school doesn't do it? Also, the concept of 'single sort' recycling hasn't caught on with the staff. They still believe that we have to 'divide' the recyclables. We don't! Oh yes, the cooks will use the excuse that they don't have enough staff or time to wash the plastic reusable trays!"