7 Tips for Creating a Green Classroom

Many believe that the green movement – measures we take out of our concern for our environment – had its start way back in the 1960s with the publication of Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring.

Early Beginnings of Today's Green Movement

The truth, however, is that environmentalism in the form of intellectual thought began as far back as the 1830s. By the 1860s, the government began to discuss the establishment of national parks. Yosemite, established in 1864, was the government's first park.

But it wasn't until the 1970s when activists began to push for legislation to protect areas of the country.

Even back in 1970, curbside recycling was but a dream.

Households would dedicate an area of the garage to collect bottles (separated by color), newspaper bundles, and cans. Then we would cart them to our vehicles and haul them to a recycling center every few months.

Well, that’s if we were lucky enough to have a recycling center in our community. 

Today’s youth can’t imagine life without the Internet, social media or curbside recycling – and that’s a good thing.

Their nonchalance about recycling is a testament to how far policy has responded to a groundswell of popular concern for the environment.

I’ve talked on this blog about the importance of teaching children about compassion and including in those lessons the importance of expressing compassion toward others and every aspect of the world around them.

As parents and teachers, we can encourage volunteering and using “I” statements to express our feelings instead of lashing out.

These days, when even the Catholic Pope is worried about climate change, what steps can we take within our schools and our classrooms?

Education World recently posted an article with suggestions for teachers. I’d like to share their ideas on recycling the enormous amount of paper and materials that schools use throughout the course of the year.

4 Tips for Starting a Recycling Program in Your School

  • Create a reference guide that explains which items can be recycled and place the guide near recycling bins. For children still learning how to read or learn English, use images.
  • Create lesson plans focused on how to reuse and recycle. One example is to teach children always to use two sides of every sheet of paper before sending it to the recycle bin.
  • Consider switching from paper to small whiteboards and have the children use the boards for their individual work.
  • Create a lesson plan that teaches your students about which items can be recycled and which can’t.

3 More Ideas for Creating a Green Classroom

Here are some of my ideas on how to create a green classroom.

  • If you live on the West Coast, you are aware of our drought. Teach your students the many ways they can conserve water. In addition, help your students write a list of suggestions for them to take home to help their families conserve water.
  • Plan a field trip to a recycling center or county landfill. This first-hand experience can help your students understand how limited our capacity is to absorb garbage and recycled materials, reinforcing the importance of efforts to reuse materials.
  • Explain that most items can be recycled but that there are special precautions that must be taken with certain materials. For example, there are companies that will collect metallic items – such as old faucets – for free from your home. You can also use this opportunity to teach your students that their parents must take special precautions when disposing certain items, such as pills and diabetes needles. Explain to them that taking these precautions also protects the environment and their futures.

What are you ideas will you be using to create a green classroom?


Elizabeth B. Martin is the author and illustrator of six picture books for children. You can view her books here for free.