50+ Ways to Greenify Your Classroom and Campus

Posted on 05.20.2008

With environmental awareness on the rise, so many resources are now available to help transition your school to a greener place. Below are over 50 ways to make your school a more earth-friendly campus. Recruit helpers and get creative to make the job fun.

Educate

The most important way to move your school towards positive changes for the environment is by educating. Once students and teachers alike become more informed and aware, the necessary changes will be easier to implement and will hold more promise for staying in place.

  1. Create Signs. Art students and journalism students can come together to create signs to post around school giving students important reminders about topics such as littering, recycling, and conservation.
  2. Debate. Choose environmental topics for the debate team.
  3. Peer Mentor. Have older students speak to younger children about the importance of living green. This sharing of knowledge will benefit both the older and younger students.
  4. Sculpt. Create a sculpture of trash collected from campus and the surrounding neighborhood.
  5. Have a Festival. Hold an Earth Day festival with booths that educate on various environmental topics. Remember to use recycled and other earth-friendly products when creating the booths.
  6. Reduce Your Ecological Footprint. Design a course on how to reduce your school’s ecological footprint. This site will help you get started. You can switch to green electricity, green web hosting, etc.
  7. Craft. Organize a class such as the Future Craft Collective that teaches children valuable lessons about reducing, reusing, and recycling while creating something of beauty.
  8. Invite Experts. Organize a monthly series inviting presenters on a variety of environmental topics to speak to your school.
  9. Learn Where it Goes. Organize a field trip to a local recycling center.
  10. Donate Books. Donate books about the environment to the library. Here’s a list of books for children of all ages.
  11. Learn First Hand. Make recycled paper from scraps found at school.

Become Aware

Look around you every day and notice what might be out of place. Becoming aware of potential changes on a small scale can result in huge changes for the environment.

  1. Car Idling. Discourage parents from idling during pick-up and drop-off. Create an Idle-Free Zone by having parents turn off their cars while they wait.
  2. Balloons. Encourage responsible helium balloon usage when used for decoration. Tie balloons down so they don’t blow away, pick up any pieces of popped balloons, and throw balloons away when you are finished. Balloons can cause problems for animals—and litter the ground—if not managed properly.
  3. Unnecessary Waste. Be on the lookout for waste around the campus such as running or dripping water and lights being left on when no one is around. These simple measures of cutting down waste will not only help clean up the campus, but save money.
  4. Littering. If you see litter on the ground, throw it in a recycle bin or trash can. You will be cleaning up and spreading awareness at the same time.
  5. Realize Potential. Start looking at everything thrown in the trash or recycle bin for its potential to be used in some other way before it is hauled off.
  6. Hazardous Material. Become aware of hazardous materials on campus that can be recycled at a hazardous waste site once they are finished being used. Common hazardous waste includes paint, cleaning products, and lawn care products.

Reduce

Reducing the amount of material the students and teachers use on campus will help eliminate the need for recycling or disposal. Smart selection of products used at school keeps waste to a minimum.

  1. Backpacks. Promote purchasing high-quality backpacks that will last more than one year.
  2. CFLs. Lead the effort to have light bulbs changed to compact fluorescent bulbs. Not only will these lights last for years, they will reduce the amount of bulbs going to the landfill, use less energy, and emit less heat.
  3. Reusable Bottles. Stop bringing bottled water to school. Instead, use a thermos or stainless steel bottle to reduce waste and protect against the chemicals released from plastics.
  4. Carpool. Reduce emissions by creating a carpool match-up to help connect those who would like to carpool.
  5. Hand Dryers. Replace paper towels in the restrooms with hand dryers. You will reduce the amount of paper towels used and provide a more hygienic way to get hands dry.
  6. Waste-free Lunches. Institute a waste-free lunch policy. Bring a lunch to school and use a thermos or metal bottle, reusable food containers, and reusable lunchboxes with the goal of not having to throw anything in the trash after lunch.

Reuse

Many items end up in the trash or recycle bin long before their life is gone. Get creative with ways to reuse materials at school.

  1. Make Art. Use items such as old CDs, paper towel rolls, holiday cards, and egg cartons for art projects. Then have an art show featuring the finished products.
  2. Refill. Both students and teachers can use refillable pens and pencils to avoid throwing away disposable ones.
  3. Recharge Batteries. Using rechargeable batteries reduces the amount of batteries that end up in landfills.
  4. Book Covers. Cover school books with grocery bags. This site tells how. Get creative and use recycled items as decoration. Grocery bags also make good gift wrap.
  5. Decorations. Work with the drama department to use props and decorations for dances instead of disposable decorations.
  6. Swap. Hold a swap of some kind. Electronics, books, games, and clothing are all good ideas for swaps.
  7. Visit the Library. Don’t buy a book, visit the library on your campus. Libraries are the ultimate in reusing.
  8. School Supplies. Many school supplies get thrown away at the end of the year. See what can be reused for next year instead. Items such as folders and binders can often be reused.
  9. Coffee Grounds. Place a coffee ground collection box in the teacher’s lounge. Coffee grounds are great for reusing in a garden.
  10. eCycle. Team up with a local computer repair shop and host an eCycling event to refurbish old computers that can then be reused at your school.
  11. Use Scraps. Don’t throw away any paper that can be used again. The back or bottom of paper that has blank space can be reused as note paper.

Recycle

The activity that comes to mind most quickly when thinking of going green is often recycling. Recycling bins are showing up more and more in public places and along city streets on trash day. Recycling is easy to do—it’s just a matter of remembering to do it.

  1. Compost. Start a compost of the leftovers from the cafeteria. This site will tell you all you need to know about composting.
  2. Use Recycled. Encourage use of items that you can purchase recycled such as copier paper, notebooks, and ink jet cartridges.
  3. Add Bins. If they are not already in place, provide bins for aluminum, plastic and glass recycling in cafeterias and vending areas.
  4. Wear Recycled. For schools that require uniforms, purchase from this British company that creates school uniforms from recycled soda bottles.
  5. Phones and Cartridges. Hold a recycling drive for used cell phones and toner cartridges.
  6. Green Books. If it’s available, purchase your book from a green publisher who has pledged to print their books on recycled paper or to not use paper from an endangered forest.
  7. Batteries. If you can’t use rechargeable batteries, then recycle batteries when they are spent. Batteries in landfills leak harmful chemicals that then go to our water supplies and farmlands.
  8. Place a Dumpster. Set up a recycling dumpster like this one for your school, as well as the neighborhood, to use.
  9. Compete. Hold a recycling contest. The class who recycles the most in a one-month period receives a green party featuring a tree-planting on the campus.

Put Ideas into Action

Actions speak loudest. When others see what your school can accomplish, they become inspired to do the same themselves. Get out there and do something to make your school green.

  1. Community Garden. Install a community garden that the whole school can participate in planting and maintaining. Once the produce arrives, send it home with everyone who helped grow it or donate it to feed the hungry in your community.
  2. Grants. Apply for grants such as this one in San Jose to raise money for more green action in your school.
  3. Clean Up. Adopt a highway near your campus.
  4. Plant Trees. Plant trees on your school grounds. In order to raise money to purchase the trees, ask for donations in honor or memory of loved ones.
  5. Don’t Drive. Use an alternate form of transportation to get to school. Ride the bus, walk, ride a bike, or skate to school.
  6. Go Green Initiative. Register with the Go Green Initiative. Your school can participate in the effort to change the way we live.
  7. No Junk. Create a junk mail reduction project. Collect junk mail sent to the school, tear off mailing labels, and mail the labels back to the sender with a request to be taken off their mailing list.
  8. Create a Preserve. Build a nature trail along or near campus. Not only will this provide an opportunity for your school to plant more greenery, it will also give the students a hands-on learning experience.
  9. Organize. Start an environmental club for students and teachers.
  10. Unicycle? Host a contest for the most unusual way to get to school. This idea serves to get people thinking about alternate forms of transportation...and it’s fun to see how creative the participants can get.
  11. Worms! Create worm bins in classrooms. Place scraps such as fruits and vegetables, pasta, and egg shells from class projects in the bin, let the worms do their work, and you have lovely compost for the community garden or rich soil for potted plants indoors.

Good luck as you begin making the changes to a more environmentally friendly campus. Taking these steps will raise awareness in students, teachers and the community at large. Once your school has begun to go green, you can take pride in the progress.