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Going GREEN in Your Classroom- Ideas for a More Environmentally Friendly Space

LIKE MANY OF YOU, I TRY REALLY HARD TO BE A RESPONSIBLE STEWARD OF THE EARTH AT HOME-we compost, we recycle everything we can, we've reduced our plastic, water and electricity use where ever we can, I carry metal straws in my purse, and reusable bags in the car. But honestly, I haven't put nearly as much thought into my footprint at school... until now. Over this past school year, I have been systematically making my classroom a GREENER space, and am continually searching out new ideas to implement. Have you been thinking the same thing? making efforts too? I would love to hear about it-post in the comments below and let me know what you're doing to help the one and only earth we have!

Going Green in Your Classroom Eco Friendly School Space

HERE ARE SOME STEPS I HAVE BEEN TAKING:

*PAPER BAGS INSTEAD OF ZIPLOCS: I will profess, I long have loved ziploc bags, they are so cheap, convenient and come in so many sizes. But, as my stash is being used up, I'm not buying more. Instead, I found paper sandwich bags, and am using them to hold manipulatives, class sets of materials, pictures and more. For larger items, I've been using paper lunch bags. So far, so good- I just have to label the outside of the bags before storing them away (as opposed to being able to see through them to the contents like with ziplocs).

*REPURPOSING VEGGIE TRAYS: Sometimes our vegetables come on a stiff paper "tray", which are perfect for arranging & organizing items (like legos, dice, little letters, etc) at stations or around the room instead of plastic bins.

*COPY PAPER BOXES: This I've been doing for as long as I've been teaching, but as a few have worn out, I haven't replaced them with plastic bins. I keep all my theme materials in cardboard copy paper boxes which are sturdy and can be stacked easily if necessary. TIP: I've gotten all mine from our custodians- which is to say, FREE!

*LOW/ NO LAMINATION: Whaaaaaatttt???? I know, this is a tough one, especially for us elementary teachers! Now, I've been at this on and off for the past several years as I became concerned about the freakish amount of lamination I had been doing and the potential health risks from inhaling all those fumes (we have a hot laminator at school)... but this year I have gone the extra step to work on wrangling my students to try and be a little more careful with materials so they would last longer rather than laminating them. By no means a runaway success, their heightened awareness of the problems plastic poses to the environment has helped the cause and I can say happily that I haven't laminated anything since last September :) SIDE NOTE: Although I haven't laminated in months, I don't expect to give up lamination altogether, there are some things that just make sense to laminate, but reducing to the bare minimum is definitely a help for the environment!

*CRAYON SHARPENERS: How I missed this one all these years is a mystery to me! I don't use markers in my classroom (but if you do, definitely recycle them via CRAYOLA's program- link here), instead having crayons as I find them easier to deal with....but the down side is once they are dull, kids don't want to use them anymore and I end up throwing them away. I have spent a lot of my teacher time peeling crayons to try and extend their lifespan, but even that is not satisfactory for my little treasures. Enter the crayon sharpener on the back of the 64 pack- it works reasonably well and lengthens the life of a crayon quite nicely and in an acceptable manner for my students, meaning I don't have to throw it out so soon. (and yes, I tried baking them down into blob crayons, but the smell was unbearable! Nevertheless, if you want to try this at home, here's how)

AND, HERE'S AN ORGANIZATION THAT WILL COLLECT YOUR CRAYONS, melt them down, make new crayons and donate them to kids in need! The Crayon Initiative

NOTE: Crayola will take your dry erase markers, even though they aren't their brand!!

*TURN OFF THE LIGHTS: I don't recommend you spend all day in the dark, but you probably can find some strategic moments to cut the lights- I also find the lights being off has a calming effect on my students, an added side benefit to being globally responsible!

*PAPER CONSERVATION: I find this to be a tricky one, since I can't get away from paper altogether, most specifically in the classroom. However, most of us have gone digital for classroom news (no more paper handouts), so that's a good step. For older students, utilizing Google Classroom and devices can be a big assistance here as well. For the littles, a couple of things I've been trying: using smaller pieces of paper (cutting paper in half, for ex) for projects, encouraging (e-hem, requiring) them to use BOTH sides of a paper before throwing it in the recycler if they aren't happy with something, gluing scrap paper over unwanted items for those kiddos who just CAN'T live with a cross out on their paper, using mini whiteboards instead of paper

*GLUE STICK CARE: Like many of our materials, if not taken care of properly, glue sticks end up in the waste basket before they are completely used up. I always model how to use them (roll down BEFORE putting the cap back on!!!) before we use them, each and every time to remind my friends of proper care.

*PLANTS: We all know that plants are providers of oxygen, but they are also calming & give a natural, living element to your space that connects you and your students to the greater world. Consider choosing plants that grow in the target language country if possible, or plant seeds to grow flowers,  herbs or other plants during the year. And, if you are able to to give students stewardship over the plants, you are also ingraining great values for taking care of the world around us!

Creating a GREENER Space in your Classroom

LASTLY, GET YOUR STUDENTS INVOLVED! I find the more I appeal to my students' desire to also be stewards of the earth, the better they are at being ones. Educating THEM about how they can help take care of the environment while at school is a huge step towards them being more conscious outside of school :)

Have additional ideas? Please share them below!

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