Hands-On Environmental Audits:
Find out how your school can save money and resources
The Green Schools Initiative works to create opportunities for kids, teachers, and parents to lead efforts to implement environmental and health improvements at their schools and in their communities. As part of the 7 step "school greening" process (see 7 Steps to a Green School), kids can be involved in undertaking place-based hands-on environmental audits, designing and analyzing solutions and actions, and monitoring progress.
Curricula: There are lots of great curricula out there and we encourage you to use and adapt existing ideas and to share your own! If you have curricula that you would like to share, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We offer downloadable MS-Word files and links here for you to use and adapt.
Use the Overview below to organize your class to do the audit. Recruit parent volunteers to help your student teams on the day of the audit. Use the tally sheets to compile your student teams' results.
REDUCING WASTE AND RECYCLING
We have a curriculum overview to help get you started on analyzing and reducing your school's garbage, waste, and recycling efforts. We also offer data sheets and sample results for doing an audit of garbage for a whole school and/or for one classroom. Start your class off with the Trash Can Quiz to get your students thinking about what we use, what it's made of, what happens when it's thrown out, and why the 4R's (Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, and Rot (compost)) are so important! The Story of Stuff video and curriculum guide are great resources too.
- Story of Stuff Video - Short video on the underside of our consumption habits and how to create a sustainable society
- "Buy, Use, Toss" - Grades 9-12, FREE Facing the Future Curriculum
- Trash Can Quiz Activity
- Recycling Curriculum Overview - Topics
- Recycling Curriculum Overview - Time Requirements, Equipment
- Garbage Audit Data Sheet
- Sample Results Analysis Homework
- Sample Results Spreadsheet
- Sample Opt-out Permission Slip
- NEW! 2010 Waste Audit Sheet (simplified)
- NEW! 2010 Waste Audit Tally Sheet
Other links for school audits and recycling:
- San Mateo County Recycle Works - Detailed methods for school waste audit, permission slip form, data sheets, lesson plan
- California Integrated Waste Management Board - School Waste Reduction page has details of how to recycle for every department in the school, how to do school waste assessments, and more.
PROTECTING FORESTS, REDUCING PAPER WASTE, AND BUYING RECYCLED
We offer a curriculum overview to help you integrate issues of forest protection and reducing paper waste into your other studies. Sample data sheets, homework assignments, cost-benefit analysis of switching to recycled paper, and other internet resources are provided here.
SAVING ENERGY, REDUCING A SCHOOL'S CARBON FOOTPRINT
Help your school become a "cool school" by analyzing its energy usage and determining its carbon emissions. Use the SchoolNeutral Carbon Calculator to help calculate your school's "carbon footprint" and understand how your school contributes to global warming and ways you can reduce your school's emissions. You will need to collect information about electricity and gas usage at your school, as well as how students and staff travel to school.
The National Energy Education Development Project (NEED) has developed LOADS of curricula on all kinds of energy issues, including student energy audits and energy efficiency and conservation across many grade levels. The federal program is 30 years old and is active in all 50 states, and curricula has been translated into Spanish, Thai, and Japanese. Scroll down to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation section and look at "School Energy Survey" Teacher and Student Guide, the "Saving Energy at Home and at School" Teacher and Student Guide, and the "Blueprint for School Energy Teams."
You can also do a simplified energy audit - even with younger students - to examine your existing energy use behaviors, like if lights and equipment are left on, phantom loads, and thermostat settings, among others. The audit can then be used as the basis for student action to save energy.
CONSERVING WATER, SAVING WATERSHEDS Help your school save water by examining water use and finding any leaks.
FACING THE FUTURE: PEOPLE AND THE PLANET is a nonprofit organization that brings global issues and sustainability education to middle and high schools (and soon to elementary schools as well). Since 1995, the organization has been researching and writing curriculum materials that promote critical thinking and meet national and state education standards (including California); providing professional development workshops to teachers on global issues, sustainability, and service learning; and consulting with schools to integrate global sustainability across their curricula. Facing the Future’s resources are in use in 49 states in the United States and 42 countries and are widely used across several subject areas. Many activities, textbooks, curricula, student action ideas, and teacher training resources available on their award-winning website.