- 2012elections - 9/11 Special Coverage - aca - africanamericanalzheimers - aids - Alabama News Network - american - Awards & Expo - bees - bilingual - border - californiaeducation - Caribbean - cir - citizenship - climatechange - collgeinmiami - community - democrats - ecotourism - Elders - Election 2012 - elections2012 - escuelas - Ethnic Media in the News - Ethnicities - Events - Eye on Egypt - Fellowships - food - Foreclosures - Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area - Health Care Reform - healthyhungerfreekids - howtodie - humiliating - immigrants - Inside the Shadow Economy - kimjongun - Latin America - Law & Justice - Living - Media - memphismediaroundtable - Multimedia - NAM en Espaol - Politics & Governance - Religion - Richmond Pulse - Science & Technology - Sports - The Movement to Expand Health Care Access - Video - Voter Suppression - War & Conflict - 攔截盤查政策 - Top Stories - Immigration - Health - Economy - Education - Environment - Ethnic Media Headlines - International Affairs - NAM en Español - Occupy Protests - Youth Culture - Collaborative Reporting

School Matters: Green School Movement Focuses on Air Quality

New America Media, News Report, Annette Fuentes Posted: Oct 21, 2008

Editor's Note: Former environmental research scientist Deborah Moore is one of many parents helping to lead the charge to green schools in the Bay Area. Her organization, The Green Schools Initiative, is part of a nationwide movement focusing on everything from sustainable education to recycling to detoxifying cleaning products. Annette Fuentes is an education editor at NAM and author of a forthcoming book on public school safety and violence from UC Press.

For 20 years, Deborah Moore traveled the world working to keep water safe from pollutants as a research scientist with the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund. Back home in the San Francisco Bay Area, though, she discovered a new frontier when she attended an event at her daughters elementary school.

I was helping clean up after pizza night and I looked around at everything we were throwing out and asked, Wheres the recycling? Moore explained. Im an activist by profession, so to me it was hypocritical to let it go by the wayside. Soon after that, she started a recycling program at the school.

Moore is the director of the Green Schools Initiative and she told her story during a day-long conference Oct. 16 called "Eco-Schools: Educating for Sustainable Communities" - co-sponsored by the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley and New Mexico-based nonprofit Bioneers - which was held at the Marin Center in San Rafael.

Moore led a packed workshop for teachers from California and other states (as well as Canada and New Zealand) on how to create greener schools, from infusing curricula with environmental education to building school gardens and more healthy lunch menus.

Holding up a small, plastic garbage can, Moore led the attendees through the "trash can quiz," which is an easy exercise for students to begin to discuss and understand principles of sustainability. Grabbing a piece of paper and then a soda can, Moore asked simple questions about their origin and final destination that elicited complex and often stunning responses. The aluminum soda can was a "treasure," Moore said, but every day U.S. consumers toss enough of them onto landfills to build a fleet of airplanesinstead of recycling them.

"We want our kids to be critical thinkers, to feel empowered to make change," Moore said. "Green schools are about creating opportunities to make that happen."

The green school movement, of which Moore's initiative is a part, encompasses a range of innovations that would affect what students learn as well as how schools are operated and maintained. Collectively, schools around the country use 13 percent of the nation's energy and the typical school emits 2,000 tons of carbon each year, Moore noted. The waste schools generatefrom lunchroom trash to paper productsaccounts for about 4 percent of a city's total garbage.

"Alameda County schools use 11,000 tons of paper a year," she said.

Green schools are also healthier places for children, teachers and other employees, Moore explained, because one critical component is removing toxic cleaners and building products and improving air quality.

"Indoor air quality is a huge issue in schools. We've got one million kids with asthma and it's the leading cause of hospitalization for kids under 15 years old in California," she said. "Kids spend a huge amount of time indoors at schools, and the paints, carpets, cleaners, computers, dust and dirt are all potential asthma triggers." According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, half of all schools have poor air quality, she said.

Of all of the steps toward making schools greener, perhaps none is more urgentor easier to sellthan strategies to improve air quality and reduce risks for asthma. Nationally, asthma affects more than 5 million school-aged children and is responsible for more student absences than any other chronic illness. The cleaning products commonly used in schools are one dangerous trigger for asthma. According to environmental policy group INFORM, one quarter of the chemicals found in school cleaning products are toxic and have been tied to asthma, cancer and other illnesses. In the last two years, New York, Illinois and Maine have passed legislation mandating the use of environmentally sensitive cleaning products in schools. A similar bill was introduced in California.

Some local school districts are taking the initiative without state leadership. San Francisco public schools began piloting a green-cleaners initiative at seven schools where the asthma rates are highest, according to Nik Kaestner, the district's new sustainability director. Forty more schools will join the program later this year with funding from the city's public health department. The chief innovation is replacing the usual array of cleaners with just oneAlpha HPa non-toxic product manufactured by Johnson Diversey. Chlorine bleach has been banned from schools, he said, as one of the most toxic chemical cleaners. Safe cleaning products bear the designation Green Seal, a nonprofit that certifies products as environmentally safe.

There's no one way to begin adopting environmentally safe practices and learning strategies in schools, Moore said. The best way is to simply pursue those ideas that excite students, teachers and parents to embrace change.

"Start small. Pick two things, not 10, and get that done in a school year," she said. "If you take on too much and nothing happens, people will say, Oh, yeah, we did the green thing and it didn't work. "

Related Articles:

School Matters: Putting 'College' into All Students' Vocabulary

Bracing for Budget Crunch, UC Prez Worries and Plans

We Can Help Clean the Oceans

California Needs More Green Chemistry Action Heroes

Page 1 of 1




Just Posted

NAM Coverage