24 Ways to Make Your Classroom Eco Friendly This Year

As we gear up for another school year it is important to get started on the right foot.  The staff at Population Education has generated a list of 24 ways to go green in the classroom. This list covers everything from ideas for classroom décor to ways to make your classroom more energy efficient.

Green Your Classroom Set Up

  1. Create a Recycling Center A classroom recycling center is a great way to get kids excited about recycling. You can reduce the burden of sorting materials by designating a student “recycle ranger” to make sure everything is in its place.
  2. Upcycled Art Reuse household items to decorate bulletin boards and classroom displays. Create colorful artwork using plastic bottle caps. Pinterest has some beautiful examples to help spark your imagination!
  3. Get Some Fresh Air Adding a plant to your classroom is a great way to incorporate nature into your teaching space and purify the air. According to NASA, bamboo palms, English Ivy, and rubber plants can purify air and help reduce stress.
  4. Creative Organizers Create organizers from common household goods. Use plastic milk cartons to create a student supply center or use cans to create portable supply caddies
  5. Got Scratch Paper? Create a special bin for scratch paper that has only been used on one side. Encourage students to use paper from the bin before using a new piece of paper.
  6. Data, Data, Everywhere Practice graphing and data analysis skills by creating a “green data wall.” At the end of each week count up the number bottles and cans in your recycle bins and weigh recycled paper.  Create a graph in your classroom to track your recycling efforts over time. Incentivize students with parties and prizes for increasing the number of items recycled, just remember to reinforce to students that while recycling is good, the overall goal is reduce consumption!
  7. Green Mantras Unify your classroom theme by adopting a green mantra. Display it prominently in your classroom. Ideas include: My choices make a difference. We have the power to make a difference  in the world.

Eco-Friendly School Supplies

  1. Acid-Free Glue Sticks Acid-free glue sticks create fewer messes than liquid glue and are better for the environment.
  2. Petroleum Free Crayons Most conventional crayons contain petroleum. There are many alternatives on the market made from soy, vegetable wax, and beeswax.
  3. Make Your Own Watercolors Finally, a way to make use of dried up markers! Squeeze the last bit of ink out of your markers to make your own watercolors
  4. Use Refillable Dry Erase Markers Purchase refillable dry erase markers to reduce the amount of plastic waste you send to the landfill. AusPen and Pilot make great options and are available for purchase online.
  5. Clean Green Making eco-friendly cleaners can be a fun science project to do with your students at the start of the year. Many cleaning supplies contain harsh chemicals. Create environmentally friendly alternatives by using common household items such as vinegar and baking soda.
  6. Go PVC Free Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is found in many household items and is a major source of phthalates – which can harm a child’s health and development by interfering with hormone functioning. PVC has been banned from children’s products in many states but is found in many school supplies including lunch bags, backpacks, and binders. Opt for cardboard binders and natural fibers instead of PVC based-products to reduce exposure to phthalates. 
  7. Save A Few Trees Encourage your school to purchase paper products made from post-consumer waste.

Energy Efficiency in the Classroom

  1. Let in the Breeze Turn off heating or cooling units and open the windows when the weather is nice. Enjoy the fresh air!
  2. Power Down Turn computers off instead of putting them in sleep mode when leaving school, you can reduce energy use by nearly 40 percent!
  3. Don’t Block the Airflow Books and other bulky items absorb warm and cool air coming from heating and cooling units. Be sure to keep vent areas clutter free to maximize efficiency.
  4. Stop Leaks Heat can escape through windows. Have students determine areas of energy loss by creating “draftmeters” made from thin plastic wrap and pencils. Create a lesson where students use draftmeters to identify leaks. Report major leaks to your custodial staff for repair.
  5. Create “Green Teams” Student jobs make cleaning up the classroom easier. Put students in “green teams” and use the last 5 minutes of class to power down computers, close the blinds, check faucets, and sort recycling.
  6. Conduct and Energy Audit The National Wildlife Federation provides resources online to guide you and your students in an energy use assessment of your school. After the assessment is complete, students put their knowledge to work by creating and activating an Energy Action Plan meant to provide realistic solutions to your school's specific needs.

Environmental Change Starts with You

  1. Go Meatless Meatless Monday is an international campaign encouraging people to go meat free one day a week. Reducing meat consumption has been shown to improve health and reduce and individual’s carbon footprint.
  2. Skip the Brown Bag Skip paper and plastic bags when packing a lunch. There are many practical (and cute) lunchboxes on the market. Stackable containers like Bentgo are functional and stylish.  Be sure to talk to your students about the importance of using reusable containers.  
  3. Reduce Paper, Go Digital! Electronic calendars and gradebooks are great tools that can be synced directly to your smart phone or tablet. Google Calendar and Engrade offer free and user-friendly applications.  Use productivity apps like Evernote and Wunderlist to generate digital to-do lists with reminders on the go.
  4. Get Green Certified The US Green Building Council offers a Green Classroom Professional Certificate course to encourage educators to make environmentally conscious decisions within their school. The course is offered on-line and participants can complete the training in about two hours.