How Can You Be Sustainable In The Classroom? 12 Tips for a Greener Classroom!

Ever had a moment where you’re pondering if what you’re up to is actually good for the planet? Let’s dive into that. And guess what? Teachers, you hold a special power to make a big impact on the sustainability front right from your very own classrooms!

Think of it like this: it’s about doing our thing in a way that doesn’t mess things up for our grandkids and their pals down the line. Making the world a better hangout for everyone, where kindness and compassion set the vibe.

tips on how to be sustainable in the classroom

Ready to get the lowdown on how you can rock the sustainability game in your teaching space? Let’s roll!

Why is it important to promote a sustainable classroom? 

Global warming is a complicated topic and is a cause that is uniting all of humanity today to try and save our environment and rehabilitate all the damage that has been done by careless use of fossil fuels and deforestation along with other causes of the said phenomenon

But how bad do you think the effects of global warming are? I’m going to let you in on some of the most evident after-effects of the climate crisis. 

Severe weathers

All across the world, almost all countries are experiencing severe to abnormal weather which is conclusively one of the major effects of global warming. 

Higher temperatures are worsening along with monstrous types of disasters wreaking havoc including tornados, hurricanes, floods, and drought which can greatly affect the natural resources that we use to make almost everything that we need daily.

The alarming loss of sea ice equating to higher sea levels

Global temperatures are rising, reaching the north and south poles where most polar ice caps are deposited. 

And over the recent years, there has been a rapid decline in their size with sadly no true sign of recovery and that can only mean we can expect higher sea levels and more affected land to sink sooner than we think.   

Recently it was reported that an enormous polar ice cap melting and breaking off from the Antarctic ice shelf in a size larger than Rhode island according to the European Space Agency

And that is truly scary, and the inconvenient truth will get to us sooner than we think if we do not do something about it. 

Continuous increase in wildlife extinction rate

The impact of global warming on biodiversity has been evident. Over the years there has been a continuous increase in wildlife extinction rates caused by catastrophic wildfires and irreversible damage to coral reefs showing the grave impact of climate change. 

Almost everything we make from our food, and clothes, to everything that we see in front of us now, comes from natural resources. 

So what will happen if those natural resources and the environment that most people rely on for their food security and income are all gone? What will happen next? After-effects of damaged local ecosystems will surely have a negative impact, especially on people who are highly relying on them. 

CO2 levels are dangerously rising

CO2 is known as the primary greenhouse gas and among others, and it is the most emitted gas that makes up about three-quarters of the total greenhouse gases currently circulating in our atmosphere. CO2 emissions are mainly from burning organic materials such as fossil fuels, wood, and other forms of solid waste. 

With carbon dioxide mixing with other forms of harmful greenhouse gasses they then cause climate change due to them trapping heat and are also a factor for worsened air pollution resulting in various respiratory diseases caused by smog. 

Start to do something, we’re only here now. 

These are only some of the reasons why it is prime time for us to act and save our only home, Earth. 

To start the change for a better world we can make it happen in our own classrooms where we help shape and mold the minds of our future generations. 

It is important for teachers to educate them and let them know how they can take better care of our environment, society, and themselves as well. 

Sustainability is seen as a global concept but it’s best to know that to achieve global effort, it starts with everyone being on board and that means even the young ones are included. 

Whether it’s small or huge sustainable practices, it will definitely contribute and have a significant impact in the long run. That’s why it’s best to know how you can create a sustainable classroom with your students included. 

12 Tips for a More Green Sustainable Classroom! 

#1. Go the extra mile with the Three Rs!

Reduce, reuse, and recycle. These three words are well acquainted globally now, especially with the current efforts to fight the climate change crisis. And chances are your school is already running a reduce, reuse, and recycle program, but why not go the extra mile by taking it further in your very own classroom? 

You might think that this will take a lot of effort, but just a few changes in your everyday habits in the classroom will go a long way. 

Some teachers have integrated a “Recycling station” into their classroom as a way to help familiarize and educate students with what happens with their own trash after they let go if it. You can set up separate transparent bins segregating papers, plastics, glass, and food waste. 

And to complete your effort you can also take a few minutes to explain to your class and let them know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, additionally, you can add in short educational videos on where recycling bins go and how they’re recycled as well.

And to keep them engaged, you can try holding a recycling contest! Create a challenge on who can recycle the most and give fun prizes on whoever wins. You can divide your class and have them group themselves and it could even be a school event where all levels can compete. 

Hosting mini-games that are related to recycling to keep their interest in the activities is also a great idea and they will surely love and remember the three Rs even after they’re all grown up as it will become memorable and even share it with their parents and you’ll never know, they might even implement it in their own house—appreciate the domino effect! 

Choosing a “recycling monitor” to be in charge for a week is also a good practice to get the students involved. 

The recycling monitor can report and tally the number of materials that were recycled for the week to the teacher and then the best recycler for the week can be named and a new monitor can be chosen every week. 

Reducing, reusing, and recycling will become a habit without them even knowing it which can then have a better impact on our planet in a very good way. 

#2. Naked Lunch Rule

If students in your school bring their own snacks and other food on their own, there’s a high chance that most of them come with some sort of packaging. And when there’s packaging there is waste. 

I first stumbled across a naked lunch rule in my daughter’s kindergarten school where teachers implement a zero-waste initiative and encourage parents to bring food that is stored in reusable containers and the same goes for their drinks as well. 

No single-use plastic was allowed and it was really a good thing because it has encouraged me to make healthy lunches and snacks for my daughter more as well! Bringing in whole fruits is also ideal and nutritional as well, my daughter never leaves without one banana in her lunch bag.

It is also good to know that there are alternatives to plastic packaging such as beeswax lunch wrap papers, reusable pouches, and even fabric lunch pouches. 

#3. Get the community involved

If you’re able to invite someone as a guest speaker from the local community to have a quick sit-down with your class to talk about sustainability would be an amazing opportunity to help further their knowledge about the cause. 

Also, initiating a community garden in the school if you can is also a wonderful idea where students along with their parents can get involved. 

There are always willing parents who can give a helping hand whenever activities with a cause are to happen at school. This is also a great way for parents to be involved in their children’s education as well. 

#4. Go Digital

Encourage a paperless environment as much as possible as this will greatly help with reducing waste from using too many unnecessary sheets because thousands of reams of papers endup wasted wherein most of them are forgotten printouts, surplus photocopies, and just a bunch of things that were never really significant. 

Like when taking down notes, if you have a bunch of used sheets of paper but the other side of the paper is still clean and blank encourage your students to use them for taking down notes or to use them for math problems where they need to scribble down their work. Maximizing the use of paper help expand their lifespan and them not ending up in landfill at a faster rate. 

Digital notes are also taking over recently since you’ll be able to access them anytime, anywhere, and on any device. 

This will create an opportunity for students to always have access to their important worksheets, syllabuses, assignments, and tasks and not worry about losing their notes or it getting wet from spills of liquid because handwriting takes a lot of work too. 

Going paperless to help them prepare for their future while reducing waste and being a more sustainable classroom is like hitting two birds with one stone! 

#5 Maximize the lifespan of gadgets

Since most schools are indeed going digital and are imposing paperless environments, it’s best if we can try to maximize the lifespan of our gadgets instead of upgrading every time a new one comes out. 

E-waste has also been found to pose major health problems, especially in countries where the waste does end up in. 

But the good thing is some companies are rolling out programs where they take back your old electronic gadgets and even give you some credit to buy a new in exchange for turning in your old ones.

A good example is a program from Apple known as Apple Trade-in. Through their recycling process might not be known it’s still much better than us letting our old gadgets end up in landfills where they might take millions of years and still not decompose completely. 

#6. Have an Impact Day

Initiating an impact day is also a great way to educate students about sustainability while having fun celebrating! It can be an earth hour or an earth day where the school or your classroom will not use any form of electricity. 

Or you can minimize the use of gadgets as well. Some schools do it by turning off their Air conditioner since it is known that ACs add up to the greenhouses that trap heat in our atmosphere. 

You can also have fun activities to do while celebrating this day and having that one day off and unplugged will help refresh and inspire your students to focus on what’s important to start a change in our fight to help save our environment. 

You’ll be surprised as to how much your students do care about our environment and they really do care about it more than we might think! 

#7. Teach students about composting

Food waste is one of the largest contributing factors to landfills. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the world produces about 1.4 billion tons of food waste that’s enough to feed 2 billion people each year. 

Can you just imagine all the food that goes to waste yet a lot of people are pushed into poverty? 

A sustainable development goal is to not reduce these numbers and educate the people on how we can focus on eliminating this amount of food that goes to waste that when it rots add to the greenhouse gases because rotten food emits methane. 

If your school has not yet initiated a composting program, then maybe it’s high time to roll it out and not let any food go to waste anymore. You can start small by putting a small bucket in the classroom that you can dedicate solely to food waste that can go into composting bins. 

You can always start small, and work your way up to a bigger one once you get comfortable. It’s generally a trial and error process, once you get things going smoothly you’ll know you have found the right one for you and your students! 

If you currently have a school garden it will greatly benefit from this project too. 

There are two types of indoor composting; aerobic composting and vermicomposting

Aerobic composting uses microbes found on garden soil which will convert organic waste into compost, while vermicomposting uses worms and soil to produce vermicompost that contains worm castings along with decaying organic matters. 

This method is great for beginners, it’s budget-friendly, one that you can customize along the way, and a space saver too great for classrooms! 

Things you’ll need: 

1 container of any size that you would like to use (analyzing your weekly food scraps can help)

1 tray that can fit your container which will help to catch spills or so

Brown matter

A bag of the soil of your choice 

Any carbon-based material (shredded newspaper or cardboard or dried out leaves)

Green matter

Your weekly food scraps

Red worms (if you choose vermicomposting) 

The first step is to set up the container you are going to use, oxygen is an essential part of the composting process so you’ll need to create a hole for adequate airflow. You can drill holes at the bottom and around the sides of the container too. 

This way, excess water will have a way to drain out from your container, and you can collect it by using the extra tray underneath the container you are supposed to use. 

All you need to do is to fill the container almost three-quarters full with the moist brown matter. Gently toss it around and then top it all off with a couple of handfuls of garden soil where you will be filling it up with one part of the green matter. 

For aerobic composting, you’ll need to bury your green matter into the soil layer using a trowel, it’s a must for your container to have a lid so you can begin the composting process. 

You can use vegetable and fruit peeling, juicer pulps, and your coffee grounds earlier in the morning, but never throw in cooked or raw food such as meat, dairy, and fish as the smell of the decaying matter can be unpleasant and can attract pests. 

For vermicomposting, you’ll be doing the same method but with an added step, which is adding the red worms. Worms consume half their weight on a daily basis so you can compute how many worms you’ll need by the weight of the organic waste you will put into your compost bin. 

#8. Print smart

Imagine all the test papers, worksheets, random announcements and reminders to parents, and other visual aids that we print every day, there will be reams and reams of paper all in just one year for it to be used only once or twice and then end up in the trash and eventually in landfills. 

And one mistake that most of us make is that we only print on one side of the paper, and if you will be printing test papers for all of your classes through the exam week that is a lot of paper wasted indeed. 

One way to turn this around is to print smartly and take advantage of double-sided printing! Most printers nowadays are equipped with this feature where you can print on both sides of the paper and save tons of paper that should’ve been printed on one side only. 

This will save you both time and effort and money all while being energy-efficient because your printer will take less time to print as well.

#9. Promote reusable and refillable items

Have you ever thought about how many pens you have already gone through in your whole life? Some of them you were able to use up all the ink while some of them suddenly drifted into the black hole never to be seen again. 

And that’s the sad reality about pens, and not only pens, the same goes also for all types of stationery and school supplies that we use for school. In just America, 1.6 billion pens are either thrown away or lost according to Force change, and that’s a lot of pens. 

Think about all the crayons, markers, glue sticks, and other school supplies that we run through on a daily basis mindlessly that end up in landfills. 

That’s seriously a lot. If we are to be mindful of how much waste we are producing we will be able to better control the things we do that impact our environment. 

What we’re buying and how much we’re buying is also big factor in how things turn out. If we only buy what we only need and maybe even think to reuse them instead of buying a whole new one we can make a really big change. 

Teachers can also promote using reusable and refillable items in the classroom, such as reusable cutlery, reusable straws, refillable markers and pens, reusable washcloths, and more. It’s good to keep in mind that refills require less energy and fewer resources as well to make and produce smaller refills compared to buying a new entire pen or markers. 

#10. Follow the Buyerarchy of Needs

If you’ve taken up a couple of psychology classes back in college, then you’ll be pretty familiar with Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” model that greatly influences our choices and behavior. 

Recently a Canadian Illustrator names Sarah Lazarovic was inspired by the said theory and re-created it into a model that aims to influence how we buy things. And it is known as the “Buyerarchy of needs” model. 

It shows a new perspective on how we should make our choices when deciding to buy something.

It starts with “Using what you have”, which is practical because if you already have tons of used pencils lying around that just need to b sharpened you don’t need to buy a new one because they’re all dull. 

Sometimes we already have what we need, we just need to declutter and dig in through those junk drawers that we have at home. You’ll be surprised as to how many school supplies you still have that you can use for your classroom. 

Repurposing also falls under this category because you can always upcycle and find a new purpose for things that you already have, you just have to be creative! If you have unused mason jars then you can use them as pencil holders, just add jute strings and it will look rustic and perfect on top of your desk. 

The second one is to “Borrow”, if your co-teachers, family, or friends, have spare school supplies or materials that you can borrow like for example a book or a used binder, consider borrowing first instead of buying a new one. 

The next options you have are to “Swap” “Thrift” or “Make”, there are many platforms nowadays where you can swap or thrift and buy second-hand items that are still in good condition. 

This is a good way to prevent yourself from buying a new one because some materials are still existing in good condition for you to use. 

Lastly, if all these options are not applicable to your situation, then it is then time for you to buy what you need. Just make sure that it is really needed and will last you a long time of usage in order to get the most out of your purchase and also to be eco-friendly as well.  

You can also share this principle with your students and their parents as well, to influence them on how they can be aware and conscious when it comes to buying new items. 

#11. Consider using eco-friendly products for your classroom

One of the easiest ways for your classroom to become greener is by making sure that you are using eco-friendly classroom supplies. From pen and pencils to notebooks and binders, even down to toilet papers and cleaning products! It’s all about the little choices that we make that will eventually contribute to a better sustainable classroom.

It’s important that you do your part as an educator to lead by example, after all, kids are great copycats!

#12. When all else fails, plant a tree! 

Even with all the amazing technology that we have today, nothing can replace the power of a tree! From providing shade, food, habitat for wild life, and most importantly oxygen! Nothing screams sustainability more than trees!

Not only that trees are also known to reduce erosion, flood risk, and air pollution by absorbing Carbon Dioxide and other chemicals that pollute our atmospheres. Trees are inarguably our ally in combating global warming and in restoring balance in our biodiversity. So start inspiring your students to hug a tree and start planting trees!

In light of Going Green,

There are a lot of creative ideas that you can try to go green in the classroom, and these are just some easy and eco-friendly tips that you can try to implement in yours. Whether you are a teacher or a parent, teaching and explaining to a child as early as possible what sustainable practices are and why we’re doing them can have a big and positive impact in the long run benefitting not only us and future generations but all inhabitants living on earth as well.

Kids are great copycats—that’s why we need to walk the talk and make a stand to show them the right practices and how they can make better choices so that they can take better care of the environment, society, and themselves as well.

How about you? How do you try to go green in your classroom? have you already tried some of the tips I listed here?

Let me know down in the comment section below!

Have a good one!