Editor's Note (The View From Here)

Kermit Was Wrong

Going green is easier than we think.

Growing up, my kids loved Sesame Street. One of their favorite characters was Kermit the Frog. Every time I of think of Kermit, it brings to mind the song that he always sang, “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” I hate to tell Kermit he was wrong, but he was.

When we talk “green,” the focus is usually on the building systems and controls — HVAC, lighting, air quality and so on. There are a number of other things schools can do to promote sustainability. Many of them involve changing habits, not spending money. Although I would not classify my dad as an environmentalist, I will never forget him telling us, “Turn off the lights when you leave the room. The electric company has more money than we do.” To this day, I turn off the lights!

It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when you look at the dollars schools spend on energy ($6 billion-plus each year), and the amount of energy we waste (30 percent), it adds up quickly. Many districts are now educating students and staff about how their behaviors affect energy use. Energy Patrols are being formed to check classrooms, office areas, portables and storerooms at recess, lunch and after school to turn off lights, see that thermostats remain at appropriate temperatures, notice that windows and doors are positioned for maximum efficiency and report dripping faucets. The DeVargas School, in Cupertino, Calif., started an Energy Patrol and has saved about $1,000 each month. Energy Patrols in the six elementary schools in Tucson’s Flowing Wells School District saved $27,000.

When it comes to reducing the impact of transportation on the environment — one answer is walk instead of ride. Oct. 9 was Walk to School Day, with 4,448 events planned. The idea is to promote traveling to school on two feet or two wheels, which has been found to help students focus their attention during the day, lead to a decrease in behavioral problems and improve grades. Partners in the event included: the National Center for Safe Routes to School; the Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration; Let’s Move!; the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition; Safe Kids Worldwide and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. All 50 states were represented and coordinators have said that a simple one-day event has led to great changes such as long-term walking and bicycling programs, new sidewalks and pathways, enforcement of unsafe driving behaviors and needed policy changes at schools and in communities.

Involve your students and communities. Going green isn’t that hard.

This article originally appeared in the School Planning & Management November 2013 issue of Spaces4Learning.