Many schools have been aggressively pursuing green practices for many years and have achieved some terrific results. If you are still asking yourself, what can my local school do to become greener, let me offer these tips to local parents, teachers, administrators and operations people as a short list of things you can do tomorrow to "green up" your school. There is a growing awareness among school districts, colleges and universities about the need to become more environmentally responsible as the right thing to do as a key member of any community.
Once you identify the big sources of trash, you can begin to tackle the problem and work to eliminate as much of that as possible. One of the biggest sources is tableware, or more specifically, the plates, bowls, containers and cutlery that get thrown out every day from cafeteria or other food service locations. Eliminating this bulky and long-term trash problem goes a long way toward "greening up" any operation. Just a little bit of research will identify items that you can begin using tomorrow.
Assuming that you are already recycling plastic, aluminum and glass, the next big culprit is the sheer tonnage of foam and paper plates and food containers. An easy way to eliminate this bulk is to use disposable plates, disposable lunch trays, disposable tableware and eco-friendly cutlery that are compostable. You can purchase all of these items made from compostable materials such as bagasse (sugar cane) or bamboo.
For those of you saying, "But those items cost more than cheap paper or foam," I will tell you now you are absolutely correct. But what is the cost to all of us if foam trash lingers on the playground for years clinging to the chain link fence, or getting blown into the street and eventually down a storm drain? You might find that the difference is less than you think, sometimes just pennies apiece.
Another big source of trash, the kind that is unsightly on streets and in parks is the proverbial coffee cup lid. There are now compostable coffee cup lids, made from sugar cane and other fibers that will compost in a commercial compost facility in as little as 60 days. This may not be a problem at the local elementary school, but it definitely is on a college campus, with students trying to stay up late to cram for finals.
If you are looking for a way to mitigate the small additional expense of purchasing compostable tableware, why not establish your own compost pile? It's a great way to teach kids about the natural cycles of the earth, it keeps the campus clean and it can be a great source of fertilizer to sell back to the community or to simply use keeping the grounds fertilized on your campus. Composting the trash from your campus and turning it into fertilizer that you can use to beautify the campus is a great 360 degree solution for this waste.