Save the World and Money at the Same Time

  • Facilitate a student-led discussion early in the year about ways to help the environment by changing a few daily things at school. Encourage students to honor their list all year long. Delegate each student to be responsible for one of the ideas.

    Use both sides of paper. If you have to print something, use the double-sided option on your printer and photocopier. You will save half of the amount of paper you would have normally used. Encourage your students to also write on both sides of their papers, and bring it to the recycle bin when they are finished.

    Turn off computers at night; don't just put your computers to sleep. One computer will save an average of 4 cents a day which adds up to $14.60 a year. That's almost $1500.00 if there are 100 computers in your school!

    Take an inventory of items that go unused in your classroom, and give them away. Others in your school may have the perfect use for these items. If there is still not a need, drop them off to a school with limited resources in your area, or a second-hand store.

    Educate your students about mathematics and the environment at the same time. Incorporate lessons and projects that challenge students to consider the Earth while connecting skills. Check out math lesson plans funded by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Waste Management and Research Center.

    Set up your classroom reusing materials that may have otherwise been discarded. For example, cereal boxes can be decorated to take the place of plastic bins where homework is turned in. Also, household items can replace manipulative sets. For example, use cans and other empty containers for explorations in volume and surface area instead of purchasing a set of geometric solids.

    Encourage students to minimize waste during lunchtime and other breaks. Have a competition and measure and graph the food wasted for each classroom. It is also fun to challenge students to pack waste-free snacks and lunches, meaning that they pack everything in reusable containers.

    What is the temperature? Keep the blinds closed in the summer months, and open them up in the winter. These simple steps can save lots of money and energy on heating and cooling.

    Consider reducing the heat by just one degree in the cold months and increasing the air conditioning setting by one degree to find the balance of comfort and value. Remind students to dress appropriately so that you can keep the temperature at a conservative level. In a single family home, decreasing the heat by one degree will save $367.36 per year. Decreasing it by 3 degrees will save more than $1100.00 in just a few months! Imagine how much your school could save!

    Use technology to "be green and keep it on the screen." Organize your inbox and set reminders instead of printing emails. Subscribe to the daily news online instead of receiving a printed copy; it might even be free!

    Send parents newsletters by email, instead of mailing them home. This will actually promote more interaction with parents who are comfortable with the computer because it is faster and easier for them than calling or stopping in to see you. Also, consider starting a website to post grades or a blog to keep both parents and students informed of assignments, handouts, and more.

    Grow plants and vegetables in your classroom. Use rainwater to water the plants. Have a conversation about the amount of energy saved by growing your own vegetables or at least buying locally instead of buying commercially. Encourage students to split up the plants and take them home for the summer.

    Organize a recycling competition. Make it fun for your students to see who can collect the most recyclables. Offer an eco-friendly prize, such as a fun-colored reusable water bottle.

    Recycle old technology. Electronics often contain materials that do not break down and some toxic chemicals that can hurt landfills. Do your part to pass on old electronics to someone that can use them, or recycle them free through the Reconnect Program sponsored by Dell and Goodwill.

    Make good decisions about school supplies. Keep water-based paints, recycled tissues, scientific pencils with extra lead, and rechargeable batteries in your classroom. Talk to your school about using these, if they don't supply you with these environmentally friendly options.

    Make sure the lights are off at the end of the day. Lighting accounts for up to seven percent of a home's electric bill each year. If you turn off just a few unneeded bulbs for a few hours each day, the savings add up. Also, consider energy-saving bulbs. They last longer too!