Did you know that there’s an opportunity to simultaneously improve your child’s health, education and attitude? It’s true— through an eco-conscious school. However, most schools have a long way to go to be considered green.

Children brought up with an understanding of their impact on the environment are better equipped to evoke positive change. They comprehend much more about the need to protect the planet than we realize.

“We need to be more clean in the world,” says Jake O., age 7. Mary M., age 6, agrees, “If we don’t protect the environment, people and animals will get sick.” And many kids like Annika H., age 9, have adopted practices to help protect Mother Earth. “I’m helping by taking short showers, turning off the TV and lights when I leave, and I don’t leave the water running when I brush my teeth,” she says.

Children are bright, eager learners. What better way to make a real impact on the environment than to teach change through our children?

Unsure what constitutes a green school? According to the American Association of School Administrators, “A green school is a facility that creates a healthy learning environment for children and educators while reducing environmental impacts and lowering operating costs, thereby saving schools energy, resources and money.”

Earth Day Network and Green Apple Festival (www.earthday.net/node/12) have provided schools across the nation with education and environmental improvements. Perhaps your school could be next? The following are a few examples of Connecticut schools taking green steps: Hamden, Connecticut, expects a Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating for its new middle school. Eastern Connecticut State University has LEED-certified residence halls and is on track for a silver rating for the new science building. Yale University recently finished Kroon Hall, a fully sustainable building with solar hot water heaters, solar panels, natural light and ventilation, a geothermal energy system, a rainwater harvesting system and wood harvested from Yale’s forests. The Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies offers programs in biodiversity, sustainable forestry, green chemistry, environmental law and much more.

While Connecticut is on the cutting edge of environmental conservation, education and safety, green schools are popping up all over the nation. Interested in greening your children’s schools? Start with easy, realistic steps. The benefits that stem from small actions help to inspire larger projects. Create a team to assess the areas to improve. Then prioritize options. Can you offer more nutritious meals and educate the students about local and organic foods? Or perhaps put together a student team to set up recycling opportunities. Other alternatives include planting gardens, reviewing water use, fundraising for environmental initiatives and requesting grants for solar panels. The options are endless, and the benefits are numerous. Start today. Green schools can go a long way in improving the environment while creating a new generation of social consciousness.

Five Benefits of Green Schools

  1. Green schools help the environment. Green schools recycle, upgrade to sustainable energy, protect the wildlife surrounding the school and reduce the amount of chemicals used.
  2. Green schools offer a healthier atmosphere. The improved quality of the air in a classroom reduces the incidence of allergies and asthma. Green schools’ nutritious lunch options and better lighting generate a healthier environment overall, leading to better attendance records.
  3. Green schools result in more advanced academic achievements than schools that refrain from focusing attention on the environment. The lower incidence of absenteeism, reduced noise level and natural atmosphere of green schools have been linked to higher test results. In addition to better testing at green schools, students learn how to interact more effectively with the environment to improve the community as a whole.
  4. Green schools foster optimism. Participation in class activities that support the school and the environment create an inclusive atmosphere, resulting in a sunny disposition— or at least the knowledge that one’s actions can evoke positive change.
  5. Green schools save money. Contrary to what most people believe, greening a school is not costly and actually saves school and taxpayer dollars in the long run. According to the Connecticut Green Building Council, “On average, operating costs are 30 percent lower while the school’s increased durability lowers maintenance expense and future renovation costs.”
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