How To: Eco-Friendly Classrooms

Aug 16, 2021

A new school year is quickly approaching with the push to purchase back-to-school items. Many of the products used by both teachers and students are disposable and often result in large (and avoidable) amounts of waste. We’ve compiled a list of tips you can use to make sustainable choices in order to keep it green as you prepare for the classroom.

UPCYCLE:

  • Reduce the use of plastic storage containers. TIP: Alternative options include making pencil holders out of tin cans or crafting paper dividers/holders made out of cereal boxes.
  • Produce less waste. TIP: cut out pieces of an old tshirt to make personal whiteboard erasers instead of sponges or cotton pads – and you can wash them when they get gross!
  • Adopt a GOOS (good on one side bin). This is a bin of paper that can still be used before throwing it into the recycling. This will help eliminate wasted paper. More information on GOOS can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONn6vHW_qwQ
  • Get crafty. TIP: take your recycling game to the next level and try fun and creative ways to turn disposable items into works of art.

Eco-friendly School Supplies:

  • Refillable dry erase markers
  • Acid Free glue
  • Petroleum free crayons
  • Wood pencils (instead of those with plastic coating)
  • Recycled paper, binders, and tab dividers
  • Cork laptop sleeves
  • Cotton pencil cases
  • Bamboo pencil sharpener

We have to be mindful that these often come at a slightly higher cost.  But with more and more schools offering to buy supplies in bulk for a fee (that parents pay), eco-friendly options could be made available to students!

TURN YOUR CLASSROOM INTO A GREEN SPACE. Add an extra green touch by embracing your green thumb. Bringing plants into the classroom is a great way to promote a healthier, happier learning environment. Plus, plants are physical tools you can use to teach students about the natural air filtration systems of trees.

ENVIRONMENTAL BOOKS. Reading is a simple yet impactful way to inspire individual passion and communal climate action. For the younger grade levels there are countless picture books and children’s stories that center on natural themes. If you teach any of the upper grade levels you can assign or promote literature that focuses on the environment.

Contact the Gaia Project for information on our K-2 Literacy Kit resources: https://thegaiaproject.ca/en/contact/

INVOLVE YOUR STUDENTS. Teachers don’t need to take on everything themselves.  And the classroom doesn’t need to look perfect on day one!  Students love to contribute to their classroom environment and will love to take part in making their classroom “greener”!

OPEN UP A DIALOGUE ON ENVIRONMENTAL TOPICS. Students of all ages can contribute their thoughts, feelings, and opinions on various climate-related issues. As adults we typically think we are the experts, but you might be surprised by what you can learn from the youth.

GET ECOSCHOOL CERTIFIED. If you want to go the extra mile consider applying for Eco school certification. This program encourages environmental action within the context of the classroom. Learn more here: https://ecoschools.ca/about/what-is-certification/

These are just a handful of green tips to help you get started. An eco-conscious classroom is well worth the effort. If you care about the environment, one of the most important actions you can take as an educator is to talk to your students about climate change and show them, by example, how they can get involved.

Author: Serenna Chapman, Communications Coordinator (Student Intern), The Gaia Project

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