Town of Gilbert Environmental Services Outreach
Tips and Tricks for Making Your Classroom More Sustainable
Build Recycling Habits
• Recycle your paper! The Town of Gilbert accepts all paper products in the blue bin, not just computer paper. This includes newspaper, envelopes (even with clear plastic windows), junk mail, magazines, hard bound books, shredded paper in a clear plastic bag, etc. If you have questions or need bins (at no charge) please go to http://www.gilbertaz.gov/pw/recycling.cfm or call 480-503-6459 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, but remember…you must be receiving Town of Gilbert services to utilize these options.
• Have a designated spot for recycling paper and scrap paper in your classroom.
• Place the recycling symbol on the walls of your classroom. Include pictures of recyclable items. Students will gain familiarity with the symbol and recognize it when they are out and needing to throw something away.
• If you have “student jobs” make one of them the “recycling monitor”. This person could be in charge of making sure people are recycling instead of throwing items into the trash bin.
• If you’re lucky enough to be getting new computers this fall, invite your kids to join the Goodwill and Dell Reconnect program, which recycles computers and other electronics.
• Keep a tally of the weight of items recycled on a weekly basis. Work with students to convert this number to numbers of trees saved, gallons of gas saved, etc. to help them understand the impact of their classroom recycling
• When students ask if it is OK to throw assignments or items out, consistently encourage them to recycle by saying, “yes, we are finished with this, but please don’t throw it out, recycle it(or place it in the GOOS basket)”.
• Start a competition with nearby classrooms or across grades to see who can recycle the most in a week, month, or semester.
• Put classroom computers in sleep mode rather than using screensavers for when they are not in use. You can reduce energy by 60 to 70%.
• Plug classroom electronics into power strips and turn the power strips off at the end of each day. By doing so you can reduce energy use by up to 40%.
• Make sure to turn off lights when they are not in use, such as lunch periods.
• Dim lights during quiet times such as “story time” in the classroom.
• Use laptops instead of desktops-they consume 5 times less electricity. If you must use a desktop make sure you use one with an LCD screen instead of an outdated CRT screen.
• Move your thermostat closer to the outside temperature. Moving your thermostat just 2 degrees closer to the outside temperature will save over 500 lbs of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere in a year.
• Do not open windows when the A/C or heat is on.
• Switch incandescent bulbs out for CFL lights. CFL light bulbs are 70‐75% more efficient than the incandescent light bulbs we currently use.
• Conduct an energy audit of your classroom. For younger grades that could mean counting the number of lights that are on and figuring out how many you can turn off and still have enough light to work. For older students, calculate your class’s carbon footprint (use the tools at coolschoolchallenge.org or zerofootprint.net) to see just how much impact your changes will have.
• Whenever possible open up your classroom windows and doors and let in some fresh air to cool your classroom instead of automatically switching the air conditioning on.
• Install low cost aerators on your classroom sinks and water fountains. These nifty devices maintain the same water pressure but use less water.
• Work with the children to turn the water on and off when washing hands instead of leaving the water to run continuously. The average faucet releases about 3 gallons of water a minute. The average person wastes about 30 gallons of water a day.
• Check toilets daily to ensure that they are not running continuously. This is a common problem in our classrooms and toilets can run for days until maintenance can fix them. Take action yourself.
• Use leftover water from classroom activities to water plants in the classroom or around the campus rather than throwing it down the drain.
• Make syllabi available online rather than printing copies.
• Allow students to submit papers and exams electronically.
• Encourage students to use both sides of the paper for homework. Build good habits by awarding bonus points at the beginning of the year for doing so.
• Print handouts, instructions, and exams on double-sided paper and make your margins smaller. Encourage students to do the same.
• When possible, consider using the same edition of a textbook so that students can buy their books used.
• Have a GOOS paper bin in the classroom, “Good On One Side” – Reuse this paper that has been printed on only one side!
• Use fabric on bulletin boards. The fun designs can be used year after year and they don’t fade in the sun like paper. While it isn’t necessary, sewing along the edges can increase longevity and decrease fraying edges.
• Reduce margins from 1.25” to 0.75” to result in an average paper savings of approximately 4.75%.
• Print double sided whenever you can; it’s an instant 50% savings!
• Think before you print: make it a rule in the classroom that students have to stop and think before they print documents (or get teacher permission). Also try to print half as many materials and let students share worksheets.
• Make your own notebooks: combine pieces of scrap paper and let students create their own notebooks. Not only does it save paper, but it allows students to customize their work!
• Take store notebooks (such as Mead or composition books) and cut them in half to create two, smaller notebooks. These are ideal for daily journals or “think it out” exercises.
• For repeated exercises use dry erase markers on plastic plates. They wipe off easily, are cheap, can be reused, and ultimately recycled. Also, some desks can be drawn on and wiped off with markers (PLEASE test your desks before allowing your students to do this!).
• Challenge your class to go an entire day without using a piece of paper. Do more group activities, maximize the computer, and use Power Point to present information. Fill up your white boards and chalkboards and share books instead of using photocopies.
• Go paperless by sending progress reports, notes, and announcements home via email. Set up an official teacher account and set limits (i.e. I respond to email once a day, from 3:30pm to 4:00pm).
• Make Your Own Envelopes: It’s simple. Take apart one of the envelopes your school uses for mailing and trace the outline of the envelope onto a sheet of cardboard. Use that template to create envelopes. Trace the outline of the envelope on the printed side of the paper. Then fold (so the printed side is inside the envelope) and glue the appropriate edges. Voila! You might even get a rubber stamp and stamp the inside flap or the back of the envelope with “WE RECYCLE!”.
• For group assignments, have students work on one sheet of paper together.
• Have students bring in individual white boards to use at their desk during the year rather than paper. Boards can be wiped and reused over and over rather.
• Boomerang lunch once a week; kids have to take home any garbage their lunch produces. It is a great tool to pair with trash/recycling lesson.
• Engage in a trash reduction challenge with a nearby classroom. A cool activity is to have students carry their trash around for one day in a bag attached to their belt or bags. They get a more intimate understanding of just how much trash they produce each day.
• Challenge students to reduce their waste at lunch by bringing reusable containers, bottles, cutlery, and napkins rather than disposable. Lead by example with your own lunch and water bottle.
Create a More Sustainable and Healthier Environment
• Keep a few plants on your classroom windowsills to improve air quality.
• Take the Green Schools Initiative’s “Green School Pledge”. Green Schools Initiative is a non-profit started by parents dedicated to making a difference in the environmental health of their children’s schools.
• If you want to turn cleaning day into a science lesson, make some green cleaners of your own. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant; add one part water to one part vinegar for an all-purpose cleaner. To get at tougher stains, combine four tablespoons baking soda with one quart warm water to make a cleaning spray that you can use on dirt, grease, wax, and mildew. One of the best ways to clean your air is to use green cleaning products.
• Start a small classroom garden to help clean the air and teach basic gardening skills to your students.
• Brainstorm with your students about different causes they are interested in supporting and then as a group choose a cause that your class would like to support. This could be anything from adopting a rain forest to pledging to clean up a local park.
• Join the CoolSchool challenge and reduce your classroom’s carbon footprint: http://www.nwf.org/Eco-Schools-USA/Become-an-Eco-School/Cool-School-Challenge/Background-Info.aspx
• Establish an end of the day checklist to be sure lights are turned out, water faucets shut tight, electronics are turned off, blinds are closed, there are no recyclables in the trash can, etc. Rotate responsibility for the list among students.
• Make & Do Day: Students bring in used packaging such as egg and milk cartons and use these to make things such as bird feeders, flower pots, or stationery holders.
• Alternative uses for newspaper challenge: divide the class into teams, allocating one pupil as the team captain. Each team gets a newspaper and has to think of as many alternative uses for it as they can. For example confetti, rain hat, fan, etc. This can be done with any recyclable item.
• Music Day: Students can make up a song about recycling and perform it with recycled instruments such as yoghurt pots for drums, shakers made from old cans with pebbles and elastic band guitars
• Keep empty squirt water bottles to pour bigger paint containers into to help kids only get the amount necessary.
• Opt for refillable pens made from recycled plastic or biodegradable plastic created from corn starch. Select pencils made from sustainably harvested wood, recycled paper, or reclaimed denim.
• Ask parents to send in eco-friendly school supplies such as recycled content pens and paper from major office chains, or online at Dolphin Blue, The Real Earth, Inc., Greenline Paper or New Leaf Paper.
• Reuse school supplies from the previous year, if possible, rather than having students and parents buy new. Explain how these items are still usable and rather than wasting them and buying new the class can still make good use from them. Tie this into a lesson regarding resource use so students understand the benefits and don’t feel at a disadvantage of not having all new things at the beginning of the year.
Ideas to Reuse Everyday Items in Class
• Egg cartons: paint trays, math sorting, fine motor skills, classification, storage, crafts.
• Cardboard pourable juice cartons: cut top off, sort and store different styles and colors of crayons, markers, colored pencils, paint brushes, scissors. Duct tape sides of cartons together to create pigeonholes and place in the middle of work tables to keep supplies sorted.
• Aluminum pie and pot pie plates: make musical instruments like shakers and drum heads, condensation experiments, science experiments, sorting, holding glue/paint/chemicals, making solutions or mixtures, cooking.
• Aluminum cans: make sure to wash and flatten sharp edges! Make star viewers, cover and use to show size gradations, make nested cans for stacking and sorting by size, make cup and ball tossing games, make eye and hand coordination practice games.
• Sprayers and spray bottles: store paint, store chemicals for science, use spray mechanisms for science experiments on suction, fill with water and make squirting games.
• Cereal boxes (collapse and store in milk crate): posters, cutting/painting surface, use instead of tag board for projects, book covers for student writing, cut bottoms out to make organizers.
• Re-closeable boxes: Model buildings or scenes, use to teach students to do math problems using packaging nutrition labels, use for reading directions, use for building blocks, cover and use for geometry solids demonstration, have students cover and make sets.
• Magazines: posters, dioramas, diagrams, crafts, rolling up and using to decorate boxes, tear away paint holders (pour paint on one page, when done rip page out).
• Paper towel and toilet paper tubes: cut and use to teach students to string beads, use for geometry, use for all sorts of crafts.
• Pill bottles: sort and store beads, store chemicals, make musical shakers.
• Margarine, cottage cheese, or yogurt tubs: use for supply storage, use for science and chemistry mixtures, use for art to mix substances.
• Baby wipe boxes: sort or stack supplies.
• Milk jugs: create containers, make into animals, turn into shovels.
• Venetian blinds: Have the children draw on them with magic markers and then weave them together to create a quilt. Could theme it around a current book being read.