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Green Report Card: Is Your Child's School Flunking the Environment?
By Adria Vasil,
Author of Ecoholic: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products & Services

You'd think schools would be role models for good behavior now wouldn't you? Oh sure they might talk a good game about the importance of recycling paper and protecting polar bears, but are they walking the walk? Not if they're leaving the lights on day and night, spraying the school grounds with toxic pesticides and mopping up with hormone-disrupting chemicals! Here's a subject-by-subject breakdown on how your kid's school might be failing the planet, as well as some pointers for helping them boost those grades.

Grassy school yards see a lot of activity, so no matter how old the students (and teachers) are, toxic pesticides shouldn't be sprayed on school grounds. Many are linked to cancer, neurological damage, and developmental problems. Youngest kids are the most vulnerable because their organs can't easily eliminate toxins from their systems and their nervous systems are still developing. After several incidents of chemical pesticides like Roundup wafting into school vents, kids swallowing insecticide granules, and fumigants making students sick, the federal government was kicking around a bill (the School Environmental Protection Act) that would force schools to notify parents when pesticides were used on school property, but the bill didn't get enough votes to pass.

Room for improvement:

If your child's school says it's too cash-strapped to bring on earth-friendly changes, remind them that going green can actually save them serious coin. One out of every four dollars that schools spend on electricity is needlessly wasted on inefficient boilers and leaving lights on, according to the US Department of Energy. Check if your school has an action plan for cutting back on excess energy use.

Room for improvement:

No doubt, kids are messy, but did you know each student churns out about half a pound of garbage per school day? Multiply that by all the students in America and we've got some serious landfill clogging going on. 

Room for improvement:

If your older child's school has a cafeteria it's probably serving up a bounty of tantalizingly fresh, local ingredients, right? Fat chance. It probably serves more frozen fries and greasy burgers in a day than you can count. You might have trouble convincing your school to spend more cash on organic goodies, but you may be able to persuade the powers that be to cook with local ingredients (especially in prime harvest season!).

Room for improvement:

Gone are the days of teachers cleaning mouths out with soap, but kids are still taking in questionable chemicals every time their school gets cleaned. Petrochemicals, bleaches, and caustic solvents found in industrial cleaning products have been linked to asthma, hormone disruption, and allergies. Back in the 80s, one school janitor collapsed and later died after cleaning a bathroom floor with a product that contained butyl cellosolve (an ingredient still used in professional cleaners today) without any ventilation.

Room for improvement:

Getting your school to go fully green can be about as easy as getting a class full of 5-year-olds to sit still. It's even harder when you're just one person, so join forces with a group of like-principled people. Some school boards already have parent environmental networks -- be sure to ask.

Room for improvement:

©2009 Adria Vasil, author of Ecoholic: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products & Services

Author Bio

Adria Vasil, author of Ecoholic: Your Guide to the Most Environmentally Friendly Information, Products & Services, is a best-selling author and journalist for Canada's NOW, where she has been writing the "Ecoholic" column for five years. She lives in Toronto.

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