Category Archives: sustainability

end semester review: Sustainable Me

This post rounds out the completion of a semester’s project.  To bo honest, participating in a blog has gone completely against my nature: I am a very private person, so much so that I do not even commonly use facebook. I am uncomfortable with the notion that these electronic logs will exist long after we pass away, and that the words and thoughts expressed in them can take on a life of their own.

That being said, particpating in SustainableMe has served a purpose: there is much I have learned from my fellow bloggers about little and big changes one can make in life in an effort to make the world more sustainable.

For me, the has coincided with what we have been learning in tandem with our Merchandising class- my userstanding of the concept of sustianablity has gone from basic to analytical. Initially, the word “sustainability” applied only to the environment, but as we proceeded with our lessons, I cam to understand the economic and social aspects as well.

English: Sustainability chart

English: Sustainability chart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That said, I did not accomplish all I had planned to achieve.  I still have a number of “outstanding” agenda points to take care of, such as:

Dansk: Glødepærer med med forskellige fatninge...

Dansk: Glødepærer med med forskellige fatninger: E10, E14 og E27. De to sidstnævnte er købt i Danmark. E10 er en 40 watts glødepære fra Kina og den er svær at finde i Danmark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1.) Properly dispose of my “hazardous waste” recyclables- I have been hording batteries and light bulbs to take to the Richardson Hazardous Waste Recycling Center, the pile keeps growing, but I simply have not been able to make it out of my routine to take the stuff there. But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel- Finals are almost over! Ya Hoo!




Česky: Pitná voda - kohoutek Español: Agua potable

Česky: Pitná voda – kohoutek Español: Agua potable (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2.) Water Conservation– my guest bathroom faucet has a slight drip, which falls back into the sink. It has been driving me nuts, even more so as we have discusses all the water issues throught this learning, and has become a real point of contention between my spouse and myself (he does not see it as a problem, as the water drips back into the sink basin, and our water bills are low). Again- I will steahily have to attack this issue when the time allows- get a few repairmen in, to evaluate the costs of repair, and get some estimates.  As we learned with many “corporations”, sometimes the only way to sell sustainabity improvements is based on a “cost/benefit” analysis, which is what I am going to have to perform for my very frugal husband!



I feel particularly proud that this project has moved me into a course fo action: for example, joining my child’s elementary school Green Acres Garden board in an effort to launch their school garden and sustainable food program. This will evolve over time, and as the kids are very young, should have lasting impacts until they reach middle school.  It will also give me the chance to learn how to “operationalize” sustainability in the “public works” realm- dealing with multiple stakeholders: school boards, governance bodies, and small companies from which we will be soliciting support, and families.

Learning by Doing

Learning by Doing (Photo credit: BrianCSmith)

God bless you all and have a wonderful “sustainable” holiday season!

Is dining out unsustainable?


I feel I am becoming more and more concerned about trash, and have to do penance anytime something is thrown out.

My current “aha” is food waste- and dining out is a big part of it!  As a parent, in the currently unstable economy, most people know that moving to a “home cooked” philosophy makes for the best remedy for better health and nutrition.

Unfortunately, as a student ans stressed out mom, this last month has had me put cooking on the back burner, and instead focus on my studies, and just getting through the day?

But besides nutrition, at what cost is my behavior impacting the environment?


According to a study done by the EPA, Food Waste is becoming the #1 material in land fills.

“Food waste is huge,” says Schwab, a senior analyst in the waste division at the Environmental Protection Agency. “Food waste is now the No. 1 material that goes into landfills and incinerators.” In a recent interview with NPR, Schwab explained that food waste from restaurants makes up 15 percent of all the food that ends up in landfills. And all that food doesn’t just take up space and attract pests — it’s also changing the climate. “Because it rots so fast, basically it starts to generate methane really quickly,” says Schwab. Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit

Source: NPR

Methane is a greenhouse gas that’s 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. And reducing methane emissions from sources like landfills is one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s biggest priorities in the fight against climate change.

NPR also reports that apx three cents of every dollar consumers spend on food away from home ends up in the trash. And that doesn’t even include the food left on your plate or the slimy lettuce forgotten in the fridge.

In my family, we try to be very aware of what we have in our fridge or pantry- most of my friends are hard up when they come over, just because of our lack of “perceived” options- but that’s only to force us to eat everything we buy, and not waste!

The figures are staggering, and will definitely make you want to thin twice before stopping off at that local fast food joint!

Here’s a few collected on July 13, 2009, by Green Eco Services:

I Just Gotta Tell Ya

  • A single restaurant disposes of more than 50 tons of organic waste every year.
  • Food waste is 76% organic and can be recycled
  • Meanwhile cost of food has increased 8%
  • 27 percent of all food is thrown out, which works out to a pound of food every day for every American.
  • Full service restaurants waste more food than fast food eateries. Food scraps make up 66 percent of restaurants’ trash, compared to 52 percent at fast food places.

Why don’t restaurants donate food the the needy? It seems they cite liablity and other issues. I wonder if they are just lazy and don’t want to take the time.

But at the restaurant level, what can be done? (Perhaps donation to food banks!)

Earth Talk magazine reported on the issue recently: EarthTalk® E/The Environmental Magazine,

Dear EarthTalk: I work at a fast food place and I am appalled by the amount of unpurchased food we throw away. The boss says we can’t give it away for legal reasons. Where can I turn for help on this, so the food could instead go to people in need?
— Ryan Jones, Richland, WA (11/14/2010)

Many restaurants, fast food or otherwise, are hesitant to donate unused food due to concerns about liability if people get sick after eating it—especially because once any such food is out of the restaurant’s hands, who knows how long it might be before it is served again. But whether these restaurants know it or not, they cannot be held liable for food donated to organizations, and sometimes all it might take to change company policy would be a little advocacy from concerned employees.

A 1995 survey found that over 80 percent of food businesses in the U.S. did not donate excess food due to liability concerns. In response, Congress passed the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act, which releases restaurants and other food organizations from liability associated with the donation of food waste to nonprofits assisting individuals in need. The Act protects donors in all 50 states from civil and criminal liability for good faith donations of “apparently wholesome food”—defined as meeting “all quality and labeling standards imposed by Federal, State and local laws and regulations even though the food may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus or other condition.”

Unused or even partially eaten food waste can
also be utilized even if it’s not edible by human standards. The U.S.
Department of Agriculture approves of food businesses giving or selling food
waste to local farmers for use in composting or as animal feed. If such food
contains or has come into contact with meat, it should be boiled for 30 minutes
to reduce the risk of bacterial infections in the animals that eat it. Many
states have complementary laws on the books regulating the donation of food
waste at the local level.

Diverting food waste to feed hungry people or for animal feed or compost is a winning scenario for all concerned parties as it not only provides relief to overburdened landfills but also helps meet social welfare, agricultural and environmental needs. Also, those restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses that donate food will likely reap the additional reward of saving money on their actual waste removal bill as their trash bins and dumpsters won’t be filling up quite so fast.

Get Involved

Feeding America- Feeding America, the nation’s largest charitable hunger relief organization. Feeding America supports a network of 206 food banks in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Before September 2008, Feeding America was named America’s Second Harvest—The Nation’s Food Bank Network. The organization adopted a rebranding effort in order to help better educate and engage the public about our role in the fight against hunger. The new brand will allow them to build the support they need to feed 1 million more people each year, to significantly increase participation in federal nutrition programs, and to inspire the public to take action.

CONTACTS: CalRecycle,; Mama’s Health,; North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance,

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881


Barclay, E. (2012, 11 27). For restaurants, food   waste is seen as low priority. Retrieved 12 3, 2012, from NPR:

Cathy. (2009, July 13). Food Waste in Restaurants. Retrieved 12 3, 2012, from




Sustainability: jobs versus homelessness

Have you ever seen a dark and somewhat dingy figure hanging out by the metro link station?

Or perhaps they’ve plunked down at the bus stop?

Now, has that individual tried to get your attention?

Had I just missed my train, I might never have even noticed this woman.

In fact, had I not been chatting away with my classmate on that corner for more than 5 minutes, I probably would not have given her the time of day.

I finally tuned in enough to realize that this woman was trying to sell me something, a legitimate newspaper.

The concept of starting a newspaper business as a job is not new. Somewhat out of fashion now, with the prevalence of the internet, often times having a newspaper route is a young person’s first experience holding a job.

Think “entrepreneur”.

The concept behind papers for the homeless is to “Give a Hand Up”, and not just a hand out. It’s a means of letting people be self employed, independant.

There are a number of newspapers who offer this service around the country:


“Vendors”- a person who signs up to sells the newspapers receives the first 10 for free.

The papers generally sell for $1 or other donation per issue, so those first ten papers equal a ten dollar profit.

After that, any other papers they wish to sell cost the vendor twenty five cents, equally a seventy-five cent profit per paper.

And, while that does not seem much to you or I, it offers the individual more than income: it helps restore a sense of pride.

The particular issue I purchased was called Street Zine, which is the Dallas version.

Based out of downtown Dallas, Street Zine is sponsored and supported by Stewpot, a religiously affiliated organization offering shelter, meals, job support, and education for people in crisis or need.

All the papers mentioned above are members of a larger organization called NASNA, or the North American Street Newspaper Association.

NASNA logo

NASNA logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Launched in 1996, the organization focuses on offering people a viable outlet out of the ring of poverty, and gives them a voice- many of the articles in the paper deal with homeless issues, raising awareness of this problem in modern society.


The danger with homelessness is in how we have a tendency of “objectifying” people- where we no longer look at them as fellow human beings,

We are afraid of them, and what they represent. “There go you and I, but for the grace of God”.

But, relationships across class and cultural lines are built through the simple interaction of purchasing a newspaper. NASNA states that their goal is to get the general public to know the individual on the corner, not as a bum or a drug addict, but as Joe or Jane, and recognizes that individuals on the streets are no different than themselves.

These are people who love, laugh, cry, feel sadness, and have similar interests to anyone of us.

Once we “step out of our comfort zone”, and buy one of their papers, the individual on the streets recognizes that being homeless doesn’t mean becoming a victim, but instead that they to belong to a community. Their hopes, dreams and opinions matter, just like all of us.

So, next time someone is trying to get your attention on the corner, offering to sell you a paper, BUY ONE, like I did. And help a person out.

Sustainability at the family level: sharing the message with my kids

The EPA was directed to set standards for radi...

The EPA was directed to set standards for radioactive materials under Reorganization Plan No. 3 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, now that sustainability is a lifestyle change, how do I get my kids to understand what it’s all about?

Well, there are a number of fantastic resources to help “spread the word” at a child’s level:

For example, the EPA themselves offer a number of “games” to play vis a vie using sustainability as the backdrop for action, which I am super excited about as an alternative of letting the munchkins roam free on “barbie” or “disney” . (mind you, these sites off some info as well)

Teacher Resources and Lesson Plans

As an extension of the EPA’s Environmental Literacy program, they offer an array of environmental and science based lesson plans, activities and ideas.

EPA Resources

External Resources

EPA also has tons of fun games to play and learn about the environment! Here is a snapshot of a few:


Air Quality Index Grades: 3-6 What should you do when the Air Quality Index is orange? Let the chameleons K.C., Koko, and Kool, show you how EPA measures pollution in the air.

Beach Kids Games Grades: 2-4
Visit this site any time of year to play games about beaches.

Detective Training Activities Grades: 3-5 We need your detective skills to help us protect the earth! Solve these mysteries and you’ll learn how you can take care of the environment too!

EEK! Environmental Education for Kids Grades: 2-7 Learn about animals, the earth, and people who work in environmental jobs with this online magazine from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Energy Information for Kids Grades: 3-8 This site has games, riddles, word find/crossword puzzles, and science fair experiments on energy.

Energy Quest Grades: 3-6
Learn more about energy and avoid being an energy vampire!

The Environauts Mission to Earth Grades: 2-5 Help! The planet Ergon is filling up with trash and they need some help…! Can you teach the people of Ergon to protect their environment? I bet you can!

Go with the Flow Grades: 6-9
Let NASA teach you all about the flow of water.

Lose your Excuse Grades: 3-7 Fun games and activities that teach about energy conservation.

NASA’s new Climate Kids website Grades: 3-7 Geared toward students, the multimedia-rich Climate Kids site uses games, humorous illustrations and animations to help break down the important issue of climate change.

National Institute of Environmental Health Science Grades: 1-4 Games, puzzles, art, and more — all about science, the environment, and environmental careers.

Nonpoint Source Pollution Awareness Word Search Puzzle Grades: 6-9 Can You Find The Words?

Recycle CityGrades: 2-6 Explore Recycle City to see how the people of the town reduce waste, use less energy, and even save money by doing simple things at home, at work, and in their neighborhoods.

Roofus’s Solar and Energy Efficient Home Grades: 3-6 Learn how to be energy efficient at home.
Sewage in Your Face  Grades: 2-6 Get to the bottom of sewage in an interactive and fun way.

Sort Mania Grades: 2-6 This interactive game teaches you how to recycle.

Thirstin’s Word Scramble Game Grades: 2-4 In this animated game, you’ll unscramble words to show how much you know about water.

UV Radiation Crossword Puzzle Grades: 4-7 If you’re good with words, and think you know all about ultraviolet radiation (or want to learn), then you’re sure to enjoy this crossword puzzle.

Waste no Words Grades: 4-7 How much do you know about garbage and recycling? Find out in this totally awesome crossword puzzle!

Water Stewardship Grades: 3-7
Check out some of these games, virtual models and fun water activities made just for YOU!

What’s Wrong with this Picture? Grades: 5-8
Can you find all the ways that we pollute the water around us? Click on the picture to learn about some of the most common things to avoid.

Cool Stuff

The Groundwater Story Grades: 1-3 Animated music video about the the water “down below”, its importance to living things and how to help protect this hidden resource.
Interactive Water Cycle Grades: 1-4 In this animated activity, you control the water cycle as you learn.

Loop Scoops Grades: 1-5 Loop Scoops are short, funny videos to get you thinking about the stuff in your life and what this stuff can do to the environment.

Planet Protectors On-Line Coloring Book Grades: 1-2 Do you like to color? Do you like to color on-line? Visit this page and you’ll find a really awesome picture that you can color over and over again!

WaterSense Kids Page Grades: 3-7
Thirsty for knowledge about water?

Yucky Worm World Grades: 3-7 Learn about worms and what they do for our environment.

Another great site is National Geographic Little Kids, which also offers a number of resources and literature on the matter:

The 1st PBS Kids ident. Used from August 2, 19...

The 1st PBS Kids ident. Used from August 2, 1993 to August 31, 1999. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PBS kids, another mom favorite, has launched an online program called “meet the greens” to help inspire daily participation on this issue:

The GREENS is a site for kids from WGBH about sustainability and green living. You might know WGBH as the maker of shows like Frontline, NOVA, Masterpiece Theatre and Antiques Roadshow. Or maybe you’ve seen ZOOM or Arthur or Curious George on TV. We make those shows too.

The GREENS is a different kind of project because it has launched online. It’s not a TV show, at least not yet. The GREENS promotes a strong educational mission, something that is consistent with all of WGBH’s work.

With The GREENS, kids get thinking about the world and their place in it. The GREENS project is upbeat and optimistic. It encourage kids to make informed choices and meaningful changes. Through the animated episodic adventures, a blog, kids’ mail, and regular updates,the program explores green living, sustainability, ecology, environmental care, and social equity. It nudges kids to research, to challenge, to discover, and to take action whereever and whenever they can. Green Business named the program as one of the “Ten Best Environmental Sites on the Web.” The GREENS is a partner with PBS KIDS GO, National Geographic Educational Foundation, Project 3650, TVO Kids, and Zerofootprint.

The characters: Izz and Zoë, Zoë and Izz

Not only is a young woman named Zoë the voice of Izz in its videos, games and iPhone app, she’s also the main inspiration for The GREENS. Zoë’s own efforts to re-use, recycle, inspire, and greenify the world have found their way into the animated stories and blog entries in The GREENS over the years: Her bake sales for green causes, donating her bike, redirecting her birthday gifts to charity donations, conserving water at home, and supporting projects abroad like Beads for Life. The GREENS has often followed Zoë on her travels and everyday exploits, to her school, and even to her local town dump to see where the saved items go. Izz and Zoë even share a vague angst about squirrels. But it’s Zoë’s enthusiasm for the planet that has brought a real touch of reality and passion to Izz and this animated project.

For Teachers

The site has created Green Games and a rich array of supporting content. The games are entertaining ways to engage kids in learning about conservation, re-use, and saving energy. The service encourages students to explore our Web site, enter their own data in the Carbon Calculator, and write back to share their own stories about being green. One can also download the GREENS Activity Guide, which offers projects that can be done in class or after school.

For more information:

PLASTIC STATE OF MIND (Empire State of Mind Parody)  Another highly entertaining take on the raising awareness in the side of “critical rhetoric” is this viral piece which speaks to the “dangerous” use of  plastic bags in our society.  The piece is highly satirical, it’ll have you rolling, but raises a good point. You can Share this comedy musical w/ the family from Green Sangha:

Uploaded by BenZolno on Nov 16, 2010,

Made by passionate volunteers on a super tiny budget, on the behalf of Green Sangha!​plastics-campaign/​

Shoulda brought your own bag
Yeah but you forgot it though
You were busy dreamin of ice cream and
all that cookie dough

Your life is wrapped in plastic
Convenience is your motto
But plastic addiction’s worse
than they want you to know

BP’s oil spill
Almost like we did it –
We use one million grocery-bags
every single minute

Recycling them’s a joke yo
That baggie don’t go anywhere
It turns to little pieces
and then it spreads over everywhere

Into your food supply
Into your blood supply
Not to mention birds and fish and
Cuties you don’t wanna die

Just look at baby Sammy
Dioxins in its milky way,
cuz even her breast milk it’s got

OK now you get it
How you gonna stop it though
Banning Single Use Plastic Bags
is the way to go!

Join other states and cities
Kick the nasty habit
Tell your representatives
Ban single-use bags made from

Fossil product all your crap’s made of
There’s one thing we can do
Ban bags made of plastic
Skip the bag, the cup and spork dude
Convenience will kill you
Ban single use plastic toxic bags

Sustainably we go forth and save our cities
Bringing your own bag and forks and bottles should be easy
But corporations selling toxins bought the government
Stand together for yourself, your kids, the planet sayin’

Yeah, yeah,
Ban single-use bags made of

Fossil product all your crap’s made of
There’s one thing we can do
Ban bags made of plastic

Bring your own don’t you forget dude
And let your reps know too
Ban single use plastic toxic bags!

Q: How many plastic bags were used in this video, eh? Mm? Eh?
A: We asked volunteers to bring in only used bags they found lying around outside, and other plastic bags were part of the bag monster costumes. After the shoot, the bags went back to the homes or put back onto the costume.

Sometimes we have to do environmental harm to have a larger benefit, e.g take an airplane to Washington DC to help pass effective pollution emissions policy, but in the case of this plastic bag video, we didn’t have to do so.

Ben Zolno – Writer/Lyricist/Director/Bag Boy/Editor
Glenn Sauber – Shopper
AshEl Eldridge – Rapper
Jenni Perez – Singer
Bex Kanengiser – Cashier
Many awesome Green Sangha volunteers – Shoppers

Amy English – Production Coordinator, AD
David Nakabayashi – DP
Harrison Pierce – Consultant, Animatic, AC
Bo Cox – Camera Op
Seneca – Rap Recording Engineer
Colin Menzies – Working Music Track
Amurai – Final Music Track and Mastering

Sponsored by
Good Earth Organic –
To-Go Ware –
Chico Bag –
People Towels –
Sponsorship Coordinator – Carrie Staller sustainablesales at g mail dot com
NEWS FLASH: Congrats to ITALY going Single-Use-Bag Free On New Year’s Day

Taking sustainability to the streets: greening up my kid’s school

OK- why aren’t there recycling bins in the cafeteria?

I noticed the bins were visibly lacking when I attended my child’s lunch this last week- and began to look into why.

According to the PTA and the school’s administrative assistant, beyond recycling paper, the local government does not pick up their bulk recycling, such as cans or bottles. A volunteer would have to come and remove the recycling materials themselves- and unfortunately, I don’t personally own a truck to take on that responsibility.

So what can we do?

Well, I started to look possibly “greening up” the school:

1.) According to the EPA, October is Recycling Awareness month for kids! Who knew? Perhaps the EPA needs to do a better job with their marketing. I guess just another sign of cost cutting – so how can we get the word out? Well, for one, did you know that the EPA has a new student website? And on the site, there are actually “games” you can utilize to help educate kids on the subject.

The EPA has launched a new student’s website with games, homework resources, awards, events and contests. With videos, service projects and a student blog to boot, students will enjoy exploring this website. Parents and teachers can also find resources and lesson plans. Teachers will find links to a wide array of environmental webinars, publications, science-based lesson plans, activities and ideas.

Check it out at: “It’s Your Environment.”

Their suggestion on the subject was:

How can I reduce waste at school?

Students, parents, and teachers can all make a difference in reducing waste at school. By practicing the “3 Rs” of waste reduction—reduce, reuse, and recycle—we can all do our part.

The EPA was directed to set standards for radi...

The EPA was directed to set standards for radioactive materials under Reorganization Plan No. 3 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • EPA’s Tools for Schools Kit
    • If you bring your lunch to school, package it in reusable containers instead of disposable ones, and carry them in a reusable plastic or cloth bag, or lunch box. Bring drinks in a thermos or water bottle instead of disposable bottles or cartons.
    • If you buy lunch, take and use only what you need: one napkin, one ketchup packet, one salt packet, one pepper packet, one set of flatware. Remember to recycle your cans and bottles, and separate your waste if your school has separation bins!

Ok, I was somewhat disappointed, by their lack of follow through on how to get this idea to trickle down to the local government level, and perhaps help schools incorporate the initiative.


But I did find that there was information I could use to inspire the school, based on their inherent competitive nature, from an award standpoint:

The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes K-12 Deadline: April 30, 2013
This award recognizes young people who have shown extraordinary leadership in making our world better in a number of diverse ways including protecting the environment.

The NEED Project’s Annual Youth Awards Program for Energy Achievement Deadline: April 15, 2013

All NEED schools have outstanding classroom-based programs in which students learn about energy. Some schools have student leaders who extend these activities into their communities. To recognize outstanding achievement and reward student leadership, The NEED Project conducts the National Youth Awards Program for Energy Achievement.

Sieman’s We Can Change the World Challenge Deadline: Mid March, 2013
The Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge encourages students, working with a teacher/mentor, to identify environmental issues of concern and create sustainable, reproducible improvements in their local communities.

How Do I Green My School?

I also looked into another program, which might hold the key to help make it stick, by possibly incentivizing the idea of becoming a “Green Star” (think more funding or grants):

There is a “Green Star” program, which helps schools gain “certification” via:

Green Schools Parent Toolkit and the “What’s Your Green Dream School?” Contest made possible by a grant from Full Circle Fund.

Start a Green School Program at Your School

There’s always room for improvement!

Enter: the Green Star Schools Program:

The purpose of the Green Star Schools Program is to honor, support, and recognize the important work that teachers, schools, and districts are doing to advance environmental sustainability; to create healthy and vibrant work and learning communities that enhance academic performance; and to foster intellectual growth, creativity, and innovation through an experiential program where students learn environmental stewardship and take action to reduce the school’s environmental footprint.

Those seeking recognition address three primary components: Institutional Commitment, Education through Action, and Facilities/Operations & Maintenance. Following this program may lead your school to become eligible for recognition under the federal Green Ribbon Schools award program.

Choose among these seven Environmental Pathways to focus your work and activities. Each of these pages provides downloadable Checklists, Guides, Audit Tools, and links to Lessons Plans to take action:

To become recognized as a Green Star School, you will use the Checklists and Guides to follow these Seven Steps:

  1. Form a Green Team
  2. Adopt Green Policies
  3. Conduct a School Environmental Audit
  4. Create an Action Plan to Green Facilities and Operations
  5. Evaluate Progress on Reducing the School Environmental Footprint
  6. Integrate Greening into the Curriculum
  7. Reach out and Celebrate to Share Success


There are 3 levels of recognition in the Green Star Schools Program. To be recognized, your school must complete the mandatory requirements and additional “Reach for the Stars” requirements in a varying number of Environmental Pathways of your choice:

  • 1 Star: Complete Requirements in 2-3 Environmental Pathways of your choice
  • 2 Stars: Complete Requirements in 4-5 Environmental Pathways of your choice
  • 3 Stars: Complete Requirements in 6-7 Environmental Pathways of your choice

Use the Checklists, Audit Tools, and Resource Guides to complete your selected Environmental Pathways.

For 1 and 2 Stars, results are self-reported and we will send you a certificate. For 3 Stars, we will verify your activities. Please email info at green schools dot net with your contact information so we can follow-up with your recognition.

Green Star Schools was initiated through collaboration among the non-profit Green Schools Initiative, county government agencies Alameda’s, San Mateo’s, Alameda County Office of Education, and San Jose’s Go Green Schools. Each partner is now implementing Green Star Schools through their own programs.

Please visit the Green Star Schools website to use online calculator tools to estimate the carbon emissions reductions of your actions, to track your results, and compare your efforts with other schools: (forthcoming Fall 2012)

You can also choose one from our “Environmental Footprint Calculators” page.

Read about the Green Star Schools Program at Berkeley’s Rosa Parks Elementary School here.

Learn about ways to empower your kids and your school to make a difference:

Green Schools Parent Toolkit

The Parent Toolkit gives you quick and easy steps for greening your child’s school, along with inspiring and practical information that will help you and your school’s Green Team to safeguard children’s health, reduce your school’s environmental footprint, and save money. ( I am hoping to use this when I meet with the PTA members)

How to get your child’s school going green! Take a look at the Parent Toolkit to green your school: (which I hope to use in discussions with the school board)

For each of the steps, we provide links to more information and tools; everything from our “How Green is Your School?” Quiz to waste-free lunch guidelines, and from greening your PTA events
to student action projects and beyond:

1. Watch our 3-minute video – Share the video with friends or download it from the Vimeo site to show at your next PTA meeting, or to your child’s principal or teacher, to get them inspired and persuade others to join in greening your school.

  1. Form a Green Team – Establish a Green Team with other parents, teachers, students, and staff who will work together on green school activities and ways to engage the whole school community in saving resources. Use our tips for starting a Green Team.
  2. Make an inventory – Take our “How Green is Your School?” Quiz and find out what your school is already doing and what else needs to be done. Bring the Quiz to your next PTA meeting and involve other parents and school staff in answering the questions. Volunteer to help your child’s teacher engage students in hands-on audits where they can use their math and analysis skills to analyze the school’s garbage, energy, carbon, or water footprints. These kinds of real-world, hands-on lessons are shown to improve academic achievement.
  3. Take action with students – Work with your child’s class, your Green Team, or a student club or After School program to choose one area from the inventory or audit that you want to improve. Follow actions done by these schools – or dream up your own! Share our Tips for Parents one-pager with your PTA.
  4. Change your own habits – Parent behaviors play a big role in determining a school’s footprint and set examples for children. On your own, you can make a meaningful difference through efforts like these:

    1. Green your PTA events and fundraising;
    2. Pack a waste-free lunch;
    3. Walk, bike, carpool or transit to school;
    4. Buy environmentally-friendly and recycled school supplies; and
    5. Serve healthy food and get outside with your kids.
  5. Celebrate your success – Organize an Earth Day celebration in your child’s class or school-wide to celebrate your efforts.

Thank you for all that you do! Please contact us if we can help support your efforts.

7 Steps to a Green School

These seven steps help you keep the journey to a Green School clear and simple.

Adapted from Eco-Schools International

1. Establish a Green Team or Eco-Committee

The Green Team is the heart of the Green Schools process, both organizing and directing activities at the school. Consisting of the stakeholders of the school environment – students, teachers, custodians, facilities managers, parents and school board members – the Green Team is democratic and can often be run by the students themselves. Whatever the type of school or age group, student involvement in the committee is essential. This group can be charged with coordinating many of the greening activities, making recommendations to relevant school decision-makers, and facilitating communication among — and actions by — the whole school community. Use our tips for starting your Green Team.

2. Adopt an Environmental Vision Statement or Planet Pledge

Each school produces its own vision statement, setting out what the students and/or school community are striving to achieve. The Environmental Vision Statement or Planet Pledge is displayed in various places within the school and is recognized by the students and other school community members as a statement of beliefs and intents. This statement is often in the words of students, and can be an inspiring classroom, art, or school-wide assembly project. Such statements can also be accompanied by a resolution from the school board, Parent Teacher Association, the Green Team, or other school bodies (see the sample school board resolution and sample policies on our Take Action page). Use our Four Pillars Graphic to help you understand and define the key components of a Green School.

3. Conduct a School Environmental Survey or Audit

To identify priorities for action, begin with conducting a review of your school’s environmental impact. Students are involved in this work at every step, from assessing the level of waste from school lunch, to checking the building for inefficiencies such as leaky taps, or electrical equipment left on overnight. The school and the Green Team can work with local organizations, businesses, or other resource people or experts during the review. Take the “How Green is Your School Quiz” and see how you rate. Find other examples of environmental surveys and audit tools on our Resources page, under Curricula. We’ve also got lots of ideas and resources on our Curriculum Ideas for Hands-On Audits page. These audits can be fun and really help educate the school community about the health and environmental impacts of the school.

4. Create a Green School Action Plan

Use the results of your environmental survey or audit to identify priorities of the key areas where you want to make change and create an action plan. It is important to set realistic and achievable targets to improve environmental performance at the school so kids and adults can take pride in tangible accomplishments in the short term. And it is important to set long-term, inspiring and challenging targets to move beyond the status quo and foster greater environmental improvements. The action plan could involve and promote, for example, a school recycling program; eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaning materials; carpooling; energy conservation like turning off lights, computer monitors and printers; or a school garden. See the “sample school board resolution” and “Steps Forward” on our Take Action page for examples of policy resolutions, and specific action items under a range of environmental and health topics. Download a sample worksheet (Word doc) to help create a one-year workplan.

5. Monitor and Evaluate Progress

The Green Team, students, or other school community members can assist with monitoring and evaluating progress on the priorities in the action plan. This could involve conducting an annual environmental audit to monitor levels of waste, recycling, energy use, purchases of environmentally-preferable products, and financial savings and/or costs. Use these ecological footprint tools combined with our resources on school audits. The information from the monitoring is needed to ensure that progress towards the goals and targets is made and that the action plan is modified, if necessary. It also ensures that environmental education is an on-going process in the school, since students can be responsible for the annual audits. The basic data collected over time can show the waste, pollution, and energy avoided – big motivators for people to continue the efforts.

6. Integrate Greening into the Curriculum

Greening activities can be integrated into existing curricula in science, art, humanities, math, language arts, or electives. Using the school as a hands-on laboratory offers opportunities for real-world problem-solving. Students can undertake study of themes such as energy, water, forests, toxic pollution, and waste. The whole school should be involved in practical initiatives – for example, saving water, recycling materials and saving energy. Outdoor education and time spent in nature locally – whether the schoolyard, a park, or a field trip – is a critical component of a hands-on, place-based, experiential education. Where environmental education is not part of the regular curriculum, recommendations can be made by the Green Team as to how these themes can be incorporated. See our Teach Stewardship and Resources pages for a Sustainable Curricula Directory, examples of environmental curricula, on-line quizzes, and other teaching and learning resources, including reviews of books and other media with environmental themes. No need to reinvent the wheel – there are loads of existing curricula you can use!

7. Inform, Involve, and Celebrate!

Honor, celebrating, and communicating about achievements are critical components of a Green School! Greening programs can often unify the whole school and strengthen community relations. Your school might consider partnering with external organizations from the community to benefit from their experience and expertise. In some schools, environmental consultants have offered to take part in the environmental review process. Many local government agencies and utilities offer free advice on energy, recycling, and hazardous waste management. Schools should also consider the wider community when preparing action plans – for example, schools could offer to be the local recycling point or to be a drop-off for Community Supported Agriculture boxes. Some schools get involved with clean-up or habitat restoration at nearby parks or share their experiences in other ways. A communication and publicity program keeps the school and the community informed of progress through classroom displays, school assemblies, newsletters, or other press coverage. Communicating is key to spreading success and inspiring more actions. Annual Earth Day celebrations – organized around April 20 – can offer an opportunity to showcase actions taken by the school and bring together the school and wider community.

Follow the 7 Steps to a Green School and you will be on your way to reducing your school’s environmental footprint and empowering students to make a difference.

Build a Team Positive change often begins with a great team, and that’s where we suggest you start. Your Green Team can be a uniting and visionary force, and can have a ripple effect throughout the community. You and your students can create an action plan, inspire others, and celebrate a healthier, more sustainable school in just a few months.

Make a Plan Activities should be grounded in the passions and interests of teachers and students so tasks don’t feel forced on people. The action plan could promote a zero waste reduce-and-recycle program; nontoxic cleaning materials; global warming reductions through energy conservation; or a school garden. It’s all about reducing your school’s environmental footprint and engaging students to take action at school, at home, and in their communities.

A Green Back-to-School

What can you do? Start with our Parent Toolkit. Buy recycled- and environmentally-friendly school supplies. Pack a waste-free lunch. Check out the health and safety of your school facilities. Ask about your school’s Wellness Policy and more…

Kids spend a big chunk of their days inside a school, so it’s critical that the school environment:

  • has good indoor air quality
  • does not expose kids to toxic chemicals
  • serves healthy food
  • Allows for recess and physical education, and generally promotes health and well-being.

Be part of the solution – take action this school year! Follow the ideas here and the steps in our Parent Toolkit to make sure your school is healthy, safe, and sustainable.

1. Check the Health and Sustainability of your School

One in five people in the U.S. – 55 million children, teachers, administrators, janitors, and nurses – spend their days in K-12 schools. A growing body of research shows that a poor environment at school is detrimental to children’s health and learning. Yet, the U.S. Environmental Protection agency estimates that the environmental conditions in as many as half of all schools is unhealthy.

Check the health, safety, and sustainability of your school using the following helpful checklists and tools:

2. Re-use, Recycle, & Buy Environmentally-Friendly Back-to-School Supplies

Your back-to-school purchases make a huge difference. Here’s why: 14 billion pencils are produced every year, many made with wood from ancient forests. Americans use about 31.5 million tons of printing and writing paper each year, requiring 535 million trees (most from virgin tree fiber) and 12 billion gallons of oil to make. The average American consumes about 660 pounds of paper per year, compared to 550 pounds in Japan and only about 8.8 pounds in India. Some estimates suggest that 400 million used whiteboard markers — that’s 25,000 tons — are thrown out in U.S. schools every year, ending up in landfills. A switch to non-toxic refillable aluminum whiteboard markers would save money and waste.

Re-use and Recycle:

  • Can you reuse binders, pencils, and markers from last year? You might not need to buy much new.
  • Buy refillable whiteboard markers and re-use them for years.
  • Shop for used binder notebooks at your local re-use agency. In the Bay Area check out East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse – 3-ring notebooks are about 25 cents.
  • Buy used clothing at numerous fashionable and funky stores and/or donate your own used clothing. In the Bay Area, check out: Hannah’s, Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads Trading Co., Goodwill, Salvation Army, Out of the Closet, and more. You can find info about most of these stores under East Bay Used Children’s Clothing. Or look on-line or in the Yellow Pages under “used children’s clothing.”

Buy Environmentally-Friendly Supplies:

  • Visit the Green Schools Buying Guide. It’s for everyone — whether you’re overhauling school policy or just need to purchase a few reams of paper.
  • Center for Health, Environment and Justice – Check out their 2011 Guide to PVC-Free Back-to-School Suppliesand their Back-to-School Checklist.
  • New American Dream – has an excellent Back-to-School Guide.
  • New Leaf Paper – You can find gorgeous New Leaf notebooks, spiral, binders, and paper at Office Depot, Office Max, Kroger,, Target and other retailers. New Leaf also offers a 100% Recycled Back to School Value Bundle (online) for $40 that includes notebooks, binders, recycled content paper, dividers and pens. You can save 10% offall other products by entering the promo code “RECYCLED” at checkout.
  • The Green Office – (online) Sells supplies with recycled content, fewer hazardous chemicals, PVC-free, and reusability (like refillable pens). New “PVC-free Catalog”: they removed nearly 2,000 products containing PVC or vinyl from their old catalog! Enter the coupon code TGOWELCOME at checkout, and receive 10% off your first purchase.
  • Office Depot, Office Max, Staples – (in-store or online) Look for recycled content paper and notebook products, green printing supplies; pencils made from certified sustainable-harvest wood; and EnviroTech products, which have a higher recycled content.
  • Green Earth Office Supplies – (online only) Sells notebooks, recycled paper, recycled binders (some are made of old circuit boards!), and many other great products such as reusable, biodegradable, non-PVC plastic containers for lunch boxes under the Food Service/Kitchen Supplies tab (containers must be hand-washed).

3. Pack a Waste-Free and Toxics-Free Lunch

Make a waste-free lunch and make a difference! It’s estimated that the average school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year. That’s about 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for just one average-size elementary school! There are 9,000 schools in California alone. And did you know that many vinyl lunchboxes contain dangerous levels of poisonous lead? Find out how you can pack a healthy, waste-free lunch:

  • Waste Free Lunches – information about how to pack a waste-free lunch and where to get a “laptop lunch box” with reusable containers that neatly fit into a lunch box.
  • – provides alternatives to help reduce disposable plastic and paper bag waste. Watch their Waste-Free Lunch video on YouTube.
  • Klean Kanteen – the maker of the original, reusable and non-toxic stainless steel water bottles offers a 10% discount for school and team fundraising. Have your school logo put on if you like. Complete the form here.
  • Kids Konserve – offers waste free lunch containers.
  • Waste-Free Lunch Guidelines – Download this document with helpful waste-free lunch guidelines developed by 4th graders at Prospect Sierra School.
  • Lead in Lunchboxes – Learn about how to test your child’s lunchbox for lead, find alternatives to vinyl lunchboxes, and join the campaign to stop the manufacture of toxic lunchboxes.
  • Healthy Lunches – Get ideas for packing your own healthy lunches from Chef Ann at or transform the school lunch offered at your school with the Rethinking School Lunch guide from
  • Avoid PVC Plastic – Many Glad (TM) products are made with polypropylene and are PVC-free, including Glad bags, Gladware reusable containers, and Glad plastic wrap. Avoid #3 plastics.

4. Check that your School has a Wellness Policy

In the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, Congress required that all school districts with federally-funded school meals programs develop and implement wellness policies that address nutrition and physical activity by the start of the 2006-2007 school years. Ask your principal if your school district has adopted the required policy. Find out if the policy promotes nutrition and physical activity as described by National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity. Click here for model school wellness policies that promote children’s health and well-being.

I am hoping that with this and a little more research, (i.e. – what’s in it for the school? Can they get additional funding to run such a program?) my school might just be able to get it off the ground!

Too Much Stuff!

Too much Stuff!

Ever heard of “the materials economy“?  Author and activist Annie Leonard breaks it down very clearly in her book and documentary series (the Story of Stuff, as what we THINK we already know of the sustainability issue: “extraction to production to distribution to consumption to disposal”.

The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industri...

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution (Photo credit: Wikipedia)







In fact, according to author Paul Hawkin, in his book Natural Capitalism (1999), p.81, apx 99% of all the product society comes across is TRASHED after 6 months!

Now, of course, that doesn’t just apply to what we BUY,the author here is referring to the whole systemic product lifecyle: extraction, production, packaging, transporation, and selling all that stuff is involved too… so where does my “ownership” of the problem come in?

The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff (Photo credit: net_efekt)

Well, think for a moment about the fact that the “average American” now consumes twice as much as they did 50 years ago! Why is that? (“Why Consumption Matters” by Betsy Taylor and Dave Tilford,in The Consumer Society Reader Edited by Juliet B Schor andDouglas Holt (2000), p. 467.)

The New York Times - How Americans Spend their...

The New York Times – How Americans Spend their Money (Photo credit: davidcrow)







Is this generational, you might ask?  My own Grandma used to reference how they were “war babies” and participated in “rationing”, but I was too young to pay attention. Now that she is gone, I wish I could have learned more from her example….

Grandma's Class

Grandma’s Class (Photo credit: Henthorn)

We seem to be losing touch with our connection to what we surround ourselves with and where it comes from. For example: growing up, both my parents and grandparents had a garden.  We would supplement our dinner table with fresh greens and fruits.  Now, I have to hit the local farmers market, or Sprouts, to have a similar experience for my own children….do they even know how these things are grown?

So, what can we do?  Well, everyone loves a party.. and there is one coming up just on this topic! Instead of taking advantage of Black Friday sales, many activists will be taking to the streets this year to bring awareness to the issue in celebration of “BUY NOTHING DAY”

Credit on Toast

How do you want to butter your bread?

So, this year for Thanksgiving, I plan on making my “vote” count, and “speaking” with my dollars, by staying home with my family and NOT shopping for a while!  I hope that this will set an example for my children, that quality of life is not in the goods that you own, but in how you act with the people you surround yourself with.


Buy Nothing Day promo

Buy Nothing Day promo



Activists take to the streets on Black Friday to protest compulsive consumerism!


Extensions on Recycling- “Re-Use” ing

Richardson Four Seasons Farmers Market

Another nice reason to frequent our local farmer’s market ( ) right here is Richardson is that one has the opportunity to “double dip” on the sustainability issue, working with vendors who allow their customer to return the packaging used to the point of purchase for an added discount.

I found two suppliers who offerred this program as an incentive, and I am sure there are probably more:

Cita’s Salsa
DALLAS, TX-75214

Mimi’s Bees
Highland Park, TX-75219
Category: Honey – Soaps/Candles

(don’t worry- she doesn’t actually bring the bees with her to the market- just the products)

Mimi with honey bees

I makes me feel better that not all things need to be “disposed of”- that we can “re-purpose” too!