Project ideas and resources for greening your school

Looking to incorporate green projects at your school? It's easy to get started.

Simple projects:

  • Create Signage. Signs are a great way to remind people to turn off lights or to not leave a faucet running, resulting in better operational practices and more savings for your local schools and campuses. Great signage can teach students and the rest of the community about the green (or could-be-greener) features of buildings and create handmade signs to hang up in classrooms, bathrooms, cafeteria and hallways.
     
  • Plant a Garden. Build raised bed gardens or plant flowers, herbs or vegetables with students. It doesn’t have to be a huge space – just a raised bed in the corner of the schoolyard. This project gets students outside and moving, and is an opportunity to teach lessons about plant cycles and the environment, as well as teamwork, responsibility and nutritional values.

  • Collect Rain. During and after a rainstorm there is often water rushing right off of nearby buildings and pavement and back into the local waterways, bringing a lot of pollution with it. By capturing rainwater with strategies like rain barrels, schools can use what is captured for watering their new garden and learning about stormwater management.

  • Clean Up. Cleaning up inside and around school grounds can help identify and remove harmful and toxic materials that can worsen asthma symptoms among children. Those corner piles of papers, decorations and science experiments serve as great collection areas for dust. All of that dust can be very harmful to breathe, especially to kids with asthma or other respiratory problems. Divide and conquer to get rid of harmful dust from classrooms and pick up litter around the school yard.

  • Coffee Chat. How much do parents in your community know about the school’s policies? Learning more about what's happening at your local schools will help you figure out how to improve them. Green Apple Day of Service is a great opportunity to bring people together to discuss why sustainable schools are important.

  • Energy Awareness Campaign. Reducing the amount of energy we use at school can be challenging. A great way to make sure everyone at your school is working together to save energy in the building is to get the word out to the school community. The more people that are informed and on board, the greater the impact will be. Make posters, write letters, deliver daily announcements and anything else you can think of to raise awareness about the consequences of using energy from fossil fuels and how important it is to reduce energy consumption.

  • Regulating the temperature in classrooms. This simple fix can have a big impact: students who are comfortable in their classrooms, meaning not too hot or too cold, are more focused and able to concentrate on learning. It also contributes to a more energy efficient building.

Deeper projects:

  • Improve Indoor Air. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, people spend 90 pe rcent of their time indoors, where pollutant levels can be from 2-100 times higher than outdoors. Help improve air quality at a school near you. Poor indoor air quality negatively affects the health and performance of students and faculty in schools, and an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) walk-through is a vital step to jump-starting or maintaining a healthy school indoor environments program.

  • Energy Audit. If you want to help a school save energy, you need to know how much it uses each day. Work with a group of volunteers – you can even include students – to conduct a baseline energy audit and educate your community by sharing the results. Turn those results into an action plan for implementing energy efficiency improvements.

  • Water Audit. Each year more than 1 trillion gallons of water pass through our sink faucets in the United States. Installing aerators and other accessories can reduce a sink's water flow by 30 percent or more. How and where is water being used around your school? Investigate bathroom faucets and toilets, locker room showers, the kitchen, science labs, art rooms – and don’t forget outside. Leaky faucets and spouts waste gallons and gallons of water every day, and a few small changes can make a big difference.

  • Integrating Sustainable Cleaning Programs to Create and Maintain a Healthier School. Using green cleaning solutions will reduce environmental hazards that negatively affect childhood growth and development. Improve indoor air quality and help reduce absenteeism in our schools. Faculty and students alike will benefit from increased productivity in an indoor environment free from environmental pollutants and irritants while ensuring safety for custodians. Sustainable cleaning provides quantifiable impacts on gas, water and energy use by accurately monitoring water and chemical waste, and reliably measuring cost reduction successes.

For more great project ideas and to get inspired by what other schools have done, check out the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) project ideas page or read about the top three projects in the Greenest School in Canada competition in 2014.

Additional resources