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Top Ways to Encourage Sustainability, Eco-Friendly Habits, and Mindfulness at School

In today’s fast pace world, most people don’t think about the impact they have on the environment and their habits affect the world around them. It has become increasingly more important for schools to instill values of sustainability, environmental awareness, and mindfulness in today’s youth. Here are a few helpful tips so that you can help your school become more environmentally friendly:

1. Encourage waste reduction.

According to Oklahoma State University, “Each student using a disposable lunch produces roughly 67 pounds of waste during a nine-month school year, mostly consisting of plastic utensils, straws, and bags.” So how do we combat this ginormous amount of plastic waste? Bring non-plastic reusable containers and utensils and encourage your friends to do the same! Additionally, you can even talk to your school to have reusable trays rather than disposable trays. Another huge venue of waste from school is paper, there are many simple methods to greatly reduce paper waste. Consider doing the following: encourage your teacher to print double-sided, encourage your teacher to print mini bubble sheets for quizzes and tests (also reduces chances of cheating), and always recycle. To reduce waste even further, make sure your school recycles everything and not just paper!

2. Eliminate excess food waste.

According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Public schools in the United States produce over 14,500 tons of waste every day”. So how do we combat this ginormous amount of food waste? Well, first it starts with having only the food you need. When you are buying your lunch or even bringing your lunch from home, make sure to take only the amount of food you will eat. Another option is to take home the excess amount of food to eat later. Don’t throw out your food! 

3. Promote Composting.

Initiating a compost program in schools is a proactive step in instilling a sense of environmental responsibility in students and creating sustainable practices within the school community. By making sure organic waste doesn’t go into landfills by composting, we are not only reducing greenhouse gas emissions but also creating nutrient-rich soil that can enhance gardens and green spaces. Establishing a compost initiative involves educating participants about the process of composting, the types of materials needed to compost, and the benefits it brings to both local ecosystems and the environment at large. Some ways to get individuals to easily adopt composting as a regular habit is to have hands-on workshops to practice and clear guidelines for them to follow. 

4. Create a school garden.

School gardens can be a beautiful and simple addition to your school. It can give students the opportunity to learn about gardening and the benefits of planting your own food. They can also be harvested and used by students and teachers for various uses. For example, if your school has a culinary pathway can use the harvest from the garden to cook a dish, this saves money and provides fresh ingredients. 

5. Practice Energy Saving Techinques

Embracing energy-saving and energy-efficient practices is a fundamental responsibility with significant environmental and economic benefits. By making a conscious choice to reduce energy consumption in our daily lives we can significantly lower our carbon footprint. Practices like using LED lights and optimizing your heating and cooling systems can not only contribute to mitigating climate change but also save money and create a more sustainable future. Most importantly, raising awareness about how important energy conservation is through education and outreach encourages a collective effort towards a greener lifestyle. Small actions, when multiplied across classrooms and communities can result in a positive impact on the global environment.

6. Help Develop Eco-friendly Curricula

Whether by creating your own online blog, starting a program within your eco-club, or even just talking to a science teacher and asking them to help spread your sustainability message, helping develop an eco-friendly curriculum that integrates environmentally conscious topics and habits into lessons can empower students with the knowledge and skills needed to become responsible and environmentally aware members of the community. By blending a wide variety of subjects with themes like renewable energy, waste reduction, biodiversity, and sustainable agriculture, students can gain a comprehensive understanding of the connectedness of human actions and the natural world. This approach cultivates critical thinking, problem-solving, and empathy as students explore real-world environmental challenges and brainstorm innovative solutions. Moreover, by incorporating eco-friendly practices like waste reduction strategies and energy-saving measures into daily classroom routines, educators model sustainable behavior encouraging students to adopt eco-friendly habits that extend beyond the classroom.

7. Bring in guest speakers and host workshops

One initiative your eco-club can consider doing is bringing in guest speakers to motivate students to be environmentally friendly. This is extremely beneficial because although most students care about the environment, many students lack the motivation to actually do something to keep the world a greener place. So, if a guest speaker is invited and talks about the advocacy work that they have done and how young people can make change in their own communities, students will feel inspired to make a difference. On the other hand, some students want to participate in sustainability-centered activities, but they do not know where to get started. By hosting workshops for things like hydroponics, composting, and gardening students will be able to pursue ecologically-related interests, and it can also pique the interests of other students in doing such activities. 

8. Coordinate Field Trips

Organizing field trips that emphasize the significance of the environment can profoundly impact students’ understanding and appreciation of the natural world. These trips provide a hands-on learning experience, allowing students to witness firsthand the balance of ecosystems, the effects of human activities on the environment, and the need for sustainable practices. When students get the opportunity to interact with experts, engage in activities, and make direct observations of natural habitats, it will be easier for them to grasp complex concepts such as biodiversity, climate change, and conservation efforts in a more relatable manner. These field trips can inspire students to become active advocates for a greener and more sustainable future.

9. Lead by Example

Leading by example is a powerful motivator for inspiring positive change in others. When individuals actually demonstrate the values and behaviors they advocate for, they are creating a tangible and relatable model that can motivate and guide those around them. Whether it’s embracing eco-friendly habits, making sustainable consumption choices, or actively participating in environmental initiatives, leading by example speaks volumes. This approach is particularly impactful in areas like sustainability and social responsibility, where personal actions showcase a commitment to the values upheld. By consistently embodying the principles you advocate for, leaders can inspire others to adopt similar attitudes and behaviors, fostering a ripple effect of positive transformation within families, communities, and beyond.

All in all, there are so many innovative ways you and your friends can help make the world a greener place. Whether it’s one club at a time or one school at a time, every mindful action we make matters, and the first step that your school takes towards helping create a healthier future can start with you!

Shivangi Mathur & Mahathi Bodhanapalli

Shivangi is a high school senior. She is in her school’s marching band and some of her hobbies include reading, baking, and taking walks. Mahathi is also a senior and some of her hobbies include reading, dancing, and playing the electric guitar. They have both been youth advocates with Green Cell for the past 4 years and they are both committed to helping our community become greener one step at a time!

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