In a time where environmental dialogue is now louder than ever, it’s becoming more important for educators to acknowledge the importance of sustainability in our lives and the future generations as well.
Classrooms around the world have the power to change lives, and with their power to change lives—it has the power to change the world for the better.
And with that in mind, there’s no better time to build sustainable classrooms than now. Because we need to build them now more than ever.
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Here are 10 of the best sustainability practices in the classroom that you can start doing in your own classroom now!
10 Best Sustainability Practices In The Classroom
1.) Encourage students to change the way they travel to school
Teachers like you have the power to create classrooms that are sustainable and impactful where students can thrive and learn about the power they hold that can lead the next generation to a sustainably developed society.
And one of the easiest sustainable practices that you can ask students to do is to encourage them to walk or cycle to school if they can. Something as simple as switching the way they travel can have a great impact on helping the environment.
Walking and cycling are among the most effective ways to reduce our carbon footprint, it also boosts biodiversity as it produces less noise, and less air pollution and result in fewer emissions that are warming our atmosphere which contributes to global warming.
And not that, walking and cycling have these benefits: it helps us stay active, increase our energy level, improve our mood, and reduce stress—plus it’s free!
2.) Let natural light seep into your classroom
The first step to building a more sustainable classroom is by greatly reducing energy usage and increasing the use of natural light.
The best thing about natural light is that it is free, healthier for students, and is all in all better for the environment. So if your classroom has a lot of windows that can let natural light enter abundantly try to maximize it and reduce the use of electricity by using fluorescent lights.
As natural light can greatly reduce energy usage and lower your classroom’s carbon footprint, it is also better for you and your students’ eyesight, skin health, and mental health as well.
Try to also encourage your students to be more mindful of their actions by requiring them to be more active than just staring at their screens all the time which is found to be harmful, especially to their eyes.
3.) Always buy supplies in bulk
When you buy in bulk you’re actually saving more money while doing good for the environment as well.
It’s best to buy classroom supplies in bulk because you’re getting the same products at a cheaper price, and this is because most companies offer bigger discounts on larger volumes of products.
While you’re already getting your supplies at a much cheaper price you’re also reducing the amount of packaging used which is mostly plastic.
Come to think of it, when you buy individually packed pencils versus pencils that are sold in bulk there’s a drastic difference in the amount of packaging you’ll need to dispose of for the individually packed ones compared to the ones you’ve purchased in bulk.
So all in all, you get to save money and there will be less waste that results to less pollution in general.
It’s also an easy way for you to make sure that you will always have what you need on hand because you have stocks to spare and you don’t need to run to the supply store every now and then.
4.) Reusable items are key to a greener classroom
Sustainability is a big word, and it can be a challenge to think of all the ways you can introduce it to your classroom. But fortunately, you don’t necessarily have to start with words, you can do it by action—slowly but surely.
One way to teach students about sustainability is to connect what they learn in the classroom to real life. It can be small acts that when combined can produce a positive impact in helping to make your classroom greener.
You can start by utilizing all kinds of reusable items in your classroom. You can ask your students to only use reusable containers for their snacks, foods, and their drinks as well. Reducing single-use plastic is a great way to lessen waste and reduce carbon footprint as well.
You can also opt for reusable containers for art supplies, crafts, and school supplies as well. Reusable containers are great for these because they can be washed easily when they’re done and dusted.
Once they’ve grown into the thought of reducing waste and utilizing only reusable items, they’ll be learning about sustainability before they even know it.
5.) Give students a peek into the recycling process
Another great way to teach students about sustainability is through hands-on activities such as recycling projects, school gardening, or tree planting projects (if possible).
You can also try to organize a field trip for your class to the nearest recycling center from your school. This will help give them an actual glimpse of how the recycling process happens and how it can greatly benefit not only us but also our only home—Earth.
With them having the opportunity to learn these concepts from a young age they will more likely continue to practice them throughout their lives; making them more environmentally conscious adults who are ready to make a change!
6.) Give your students roles
Getting students involved in sustainability practices specifically giving them a role will give them a better grasp of the concept and why it is crucial to enforce it.
You can assign different roles to each student; for example, you can assign one or two students to be recycling leaders for the week and you can try to assign new leaders after every week.
A composting leader would also be a great role because they can get to know all about the composting process and how it can benefit plants and how it can help reduce and reuse organic waste.
You can have them start a composting project, and this can also be done in groups. They only need to use a large bin for collecting all sorts of food scraps (such as fruits and vegetable peels, as well as cardboard, newspaper, and papers).
You can let your students take turns in emptying the bin and in making sure that the compost pile is all compositing well and properly. You’ll be surprised by how your pupils will be excited to discover worms inside your compost/worm farm!
This will act as a great hands-on activity for them that will help your students realize how they can become a part of a big change just by participating in hands-on activities that will teach them all about going green.
Recycling is not the only thing that we can do to make a classroom more sustainable.
Other than recycling there is also upcycling! Upcycling is a great way to maximize the life span of a certain item because instead of you disposing of it and letting it add to a landfill, you get to repurpose it and give it a new function.
With upcycling, you can get to create new decorations from old items, or you can use old items and make use of it the way you see fit. Its essence is to bring life to old items and not let it go to waste which is a big component of being sustainable.
If you have old plastic containers, don’t throw them out just yet! Instead, try to turn them into fancy pencil holders by simply cutting off the top part, you can try to make this into a project for your class and let your students run their imagination as they create their own design for the pencil holder.
You can ask them to paint it and add stickers or ribbons or anything they would like as long as it can be a functional pencil holder. Another fun idea for upcycling is to use old books to create their very own tablet case using covers from old books!
There’s no limit to upcycling. As long as they have the imagination to turn something old into something new let them have a go at it!
8.) Teach your pupils about giving back to the community
Another important concept of sustainability that you should teach your students is the act of giving back to the community.
You can ask your students to volunteer and help out in the local community in many ways, such as volunteering at food banks or cleaning up and picking up trash along public areas in town. You can also ask them to help you out with certain tasks at school or even in your classroom.
Teaching them how to give back directly to the community it’ll help them build good habits and eventually become second nature to them.
9.) Challenge yourself and your students to a zero-waste movement
Advocating a zero-waste movement can be easier said than done. That’s why you should challenge yourself along with your students to a zero-waste movement in your class or even the whole school.
You can ask your students to participate in activities that concern wasting resources and see if they would be willing to participate in recycling and reusing items from the school and classroom.
You can encourage them by showing them past projects that you’ve worked on and explaining why it’s important not only to you but for the community as well.
If your school administration supports sustainability initiatives, talk to them about starting and piloting programs about zero-waste practices such as banning single-use plastics in classrooms and in school.
You can also try to convince other teachers to join the cause and join forces with them in creating sustainable classrooms for the whole school.
And lastly, spread the word! Hand out flyers and announce on social media where and when the zero-waste program is taking place, you’ll never know maybe the community wants to help out as well!
10.) Go for eco-friendly cleaning products in the classroom
We all know for a fact that classrooms can get dirty, and even though it’s a job for the janitors to clean up, teachers can’t stay still and teach in a dirty classroom that’s why they go the extra mile to do some extra cleaning as well.
Go for biodegradable products, because these kinds of products can break down into harmless substances that will not affect the biodiversity of our environment when it comes into contact with bacteria or fungi in soil or water.
As a teacher who is trying to make your classroom more sustainable, this should be a top priority for you.
Another factor that is vital for you to consider is if the product is non-toxic. If a product is non-toxic it means that it will not be harmful to humans or animals, and this is imperative especially if you’re teaching kids that are younger in age.
Try to go for plant-based cleaning products because impressively they are much more effective at cleaning than their toxic counterparts.
To wind things up,
Recently there was an overall consensus that sustainability has to be more than just a trend, it now must have a place in our day-to-day lives—and that includes our classrooms.
Let us commit to reinvigorating the learning process in the classroom by actively integrating environmental learning to help better shape the mind of the future generation with sustainability in mind.
It might seem like an overwhelming task at first but there are small steps that we can take to start to have significant effects that, if not already realized, are sure to be felt soon!
Until our next one, keep calm and reuse, reduce, and recycle!