While reading my local school district’s newspaper, I was both surprised and happy to see that my district is taking on some eco-projects. The eco-initiatives schools are taking now will have such far-reaching impacts—obviously, helping the environment, but also saving taxpayers’ money and setting a positive example for future generations.
Through a $12 million dollar Energy Performance Contract approved by the New York State Department of Education, my local school will be able to take on several environmentally-friendly projects at no additional cost to taxpayers. Some projects include the replacement of the school’s original temperature control systems, lighting, boiler and insulation upgrades, as well as roof replacements. I hope that other school districts will take advantage of these programs, especially since the money for these upgrades will not come from local tax dollars.
There are a number of studies and case studies that discuss how different types of upgrades to schools—especially lighting, have a positive effect on learning. The Boston Globe reported on a study found that “students who took their lessons in classrooms with more natural light scored up to 25% higher on standardized exams than other students in the same school district.” The White Paper also offers helpful information on the benefits to learning by using sustainable lighting in schools. It notes that while initially sustainable lighting is more expensive, it is less expensive to use, and offers additional benefits to learning and the environment.
Being more eco-conscious also includes the foods that schools serve for lunch. While there is still a long way to go in this aspect, there has been a little progress. This school year, the first organic school lunch program in the United States was launched at All Saints Day School in Carmel Valley, California. According to an article on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution website, the organic lunches from Earthbound Farm, are a big hit with students. The lunches incorporate food items that are in-season for the area, that are also high in nutrition. In addition, the lunch program at All Saints Day School encourages good, earth-friendly habits—trays and utensils are re-used and other items are recycled.
Organic, and eco-friendly school lunches can be done in other schools. Parents need to speak out about nutritional concerns. Lunches like those served at All Saints Day School can still be cost-effective. By choosing foods that are in-season and native to the region, food will not need to be shipped as far, and it will be fresh. Re-using items like trays and silverware will save money in the long run, as well. Organic food, also opens the door for other types of learning in schools. Gardening classes could be incorporated into the curriculum, and the fruits and vegetables grown by students could make its way into lunch room, thereby making the school even more self-sufficient.
When we send our kids to school, we think about them learning the basics, but it’s important they learn about their environmental impact in everyday life. By making the infrastructure of their schools more sustainable, we are teaching them so much more. In years to come, I’m sure our children will create a slew of new ways we can be even more eco-friendly.