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How To Go Green And Go Back To School At The Same Time

By Stephanie Nicholson

What time is it? SCHOOL TIME! Parents and teachers with summer coming to an end it’s time to load up on pencils and crayons. This year while shopping, keep in mind the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle. As a general rule, buy durable and recyclable goods, and when possible reuse old supplies. Before shopping, go through everything you have left from last year and make a list to prevent unnecessary purchases. Back to school shopping can be hectic, but if you follow my top three green tips for parents and teachers you can rest easy knowing you minimized your footprint.

Tips for Parents:

1.    Buy durable, sturdy backpacks that last for years
I still use the same backpacks I used for all four years of high school when I travel, and in the one instance the zipper broke the popular outdoor outfitter replaced it free of charge. You can even pass down durable backpacks to your younger children.

2.    Kick the classic “brown bag lunch” to the curb
If you pack your child’s lunch, reduce waste and invest in a reusable lunch bag. Not to mention, your child will have fun picking out his/her lunch bag from the extensive collection with popular characters and cool designs.

3.    Buy smart! Purchase products made from recycled materials
Many supplies are made from recyclable materials such as pencils made from old blue jeans and binders made from old shipping boxes. You can also reuse items like refillable pens, rechargeable batteries, and scrap paper for notes.

Tips for Teachers:

1. Reuse old supplies
Take an inventory of what you have left over before you buy. You will most likely be able to reuse things like crayons, scissors and glue from previous years.

2. Promote recycling in the classroom
Place recycling bins in the classroom for paper, cans, and plastic. Encourage your students to use them. You could even make a game of it, and when a goal amount is collected the class wins a prize.

3. Reduce paper usage
Use the blackboard or whiteboard to reduce paper usage. If possible, set up a class webpage where students can access assignments from home and ask questions.

This is just the beginning, check out these EPA tips for back to school. Do you have any of your own green tips for the back to school season?

About the author: Stephanie Nicholson is an intern with the EPA Office of Environmental Education. She is a senior at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland and will graduate this winter with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Summer Vacation for Science Teachers?

About the author: Kelly Leovic has been with EPA in Research Triangle Park, NC since 1987 and loves sharing environmental science with teachers, students, and her own children.

Last summer, I discovered how many N.C. science teachers spend their summer vacation — they become students! I participated in the NC Summer Science Leadership Institute in New Bern, which offers N.C. science teachers an opportunity to learn new skills that they can apply in their classrooms.

I held three EPA workshops during which I shared our favorite hands-on activities typically used as part of our environmental education program for middle school students. I linked my activities to science topics in the NC Standard Course of Study and included one for each middle school grade.

My first activity demonstrated a fun tool for teaching students (and their parents) how to understand and hopefully reduce their energy usage. We used a Watts meter to measure the energy consumption of everyday appliances, including comparing regular and compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs, a hairdryer, a toaster, and a plug-in air freshener. The next step was to discuss how students could use these data to calculate how much energy each appliance used in a day, week, and year. For example, the hairdryer used about 1,600 Watts but is only used for a few minutes each day, whereas the air freshener used only 1 Watt but is plugged in 24/7.

Next we talked about air quality where I shared the multitude of resources available from EPA, and then we each measured our lung capacity.

Finally, I shared three fun water-related activities: one on water conservation and two on watershed pollution. My favorite activity is called Sum of the Parts and is from Project WET. One of the teachers even suggested an improvement to the activity which I was able to implement my first day back at the office when I did the activity for a group of high school students from Raleigh who came to EPA to learn about careers. Even when they are students, teachers are still teaching!

The teachers seemed excited about the new activities and eager to apply them in the classroom. I did the math and realized that this is a good thing…20 teachers times four science classes each, times 20 students in each class equals 1,600 students.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.