Some lessons follow you out of the classroom. Just as we all learn how to adopt more eco-friendly practices, the next generation will need to be prepared and equipped to live more sustainable lives in the face of a changing climate. Luckily, there are exciting, creative ways to greenify the day-to-day curriculum. Whether it’s recycling, reusing decorations and materials, raising gardens, installing energy-efficient lighting, or throwing greener parties, educators, alongside parents, have the power to influence how students will one day manage the planet. So, if you’re an educator, here are 10 cool ways you can add a sustainable twist to your classroom routine now that the school year is well underway.
Incorporate plants around the classroom
Plants can much more than add to your classroom’s environment — they can also be tools for learning. They provide hands-on lessons in biology, ecology, and responsibility. So, if you want to make your classroom more eco-friendly, start by adding some greenery. Consider incorporating a few potted plants or seasonal flowerpots. They’ll improve the air quality while also offering educational opportunities to your students. Encourage your students by having them take turns caring for them, teaching responsibility along the way. Plus, it’s never too early to start teaching kids about the power of nature.
Choose eco-friendly school materials
When it comes to supplies, opt for eco-friendly materials. Choose notebooks made from recycled paper, refillable pens instead of disposable ones, and pencils created from sustainably-sourced wood. Encourage students to reuse binders and folders, reducing the need for new ones each year. This is a fantastic lesson in resourcefulness that extends beyond the classroom. Not only will it help teach children about the impact of their own actions, it will also show them the importance of spending money consciously.
Get creative with classroom decorations
Instead of purchasing new decorations every year, consider adopting a more sustainable approach by upcycling materials and involving students in the process. Besides, your classroom walls will end up papered with the creations of your students anyway. Here’s what you can do:
DIY art projects: Encourage eco-friendly creativity by involving students in do-it-yourself (DIY) art projects to create unique decorations for the classroom. Collect discarded items like cardboard, newspapers, or old magazines and transform them into eye-catching pieces of art. For example, create colorful paper mache sculptures, assemble a wall mural using recycled paper cutouts, or craft 3D models of animals from cardboard packaging.
Repurposed classroom supplies: Give classroom supplies a second life by transforming them into decorative elements. Old markers can be repurposed into colorful hanging mobiles or wind chimes. Empty glass jars can become plain or painted vases for flowers or pencil holders. Get creative with the possibilities and involve students in brainstorming and executing these upcycling projects.
Sustainable themes: Embrace sustainable themes with your classroom decorations! Focus on topics like wildlife conservation, climate change, or the importance of reducing waste. Create thought-provoking displays that educate students about these critical issues.
Introduce recycling stations
If you’re looking for a tangible way to encourage eco-friendly values in your classroom, why not add recycling stations? Set up bins for paper, plastics, and other recyclables, and educate students on the importance of proper recycling. Consider starting a classroom recycling program that tracks your environmental impact throughout the year.
Reduce, reuse, repurpose
While recycling is an important way to teach sustainable living, it should be one of the last options in the stages of sustainable habits. Instead, first, create a learning space that showcases how to reduce and reuse, and the importance of limiting our waste, and then how to repurpose — rather than recycle — whenever possible.
Teaching the importance of energy conservation is a key part of creating eco-friendly classrooms. You can do this very simply by encouraging students to turn off lights when leaving the room and unplug electronic devices when not in use. Then, consider introducing energy-efficient LED bulbs as well as relying on natural ventilation whenever possible instead of air conditioning.
Integrate sustainability into the curriculum
Eco-friendly classrooms aren’t just about physical spaces — they’re also about the lessons imparted within them. When possible, integrate lessons on sustainability into your curriculum. Whether it’s through science projects, literary discussions, or social studies topics, you can show students the real-world implications of human actions on the environment. For example, introduce environmentally-themed books into your classroom. Reading stories that emphasize sustainability, conservation, and the wonders of the natural world can inspire a deep appreciation for the environment.
Take the classroom outside
Sometimes, the best classroom is the great outdoors. Organize field trips to nearby parks, nature reserves, or botanical gardens wherever possible. Let students explore ecosystems firsthand, observe wildlife, and learn about the importance of conservation.
Invite community-based guest speakers
Inspire your students by inviting a guest speaker to come and talk about the environment. Whether it’s a local conservationist, someone leading a clean-up organization, or a park ranger, these individuals can influence your students in a positive and impactful way.
Have greener parties
When it’s time to celebrate achievements, consider making those parties eco-friendly. You can do this by using reusable party decorations, serving snacks in washable dishes, and minimizing single-use plastics. Have the students help wash up to speed up the cleaning process.
Shaping an eco-friendly mind doesn’t have to end with the school day. Parents can make their children more aware of the environmental impact of their actions just by their own day-to-day choices. It can be as simple as selecting what detergent to use when washing the dirt and grime out of all those team uniforms and other school sports apparel. Liquid detergent — with its plastic jugs and harmful chemicals — or plant-based, hypoallergenic eco-friendly detergent sheets that dissolve effortlessly while providing a powerful clean?
Of course, along with incorporating these eco-friendly practices, it’s important to share your data-driven results so students, parents, and your fellow educators realize the positive impact a single classroom or school can have. This will underscore how important it is to adopt new green-minded habits and hopefully nurture a lifelong commitment to sustainability.