Four Ways Schools Can Inspire Communities to Fight Climate Change
“Trick or Treat!”
Little voices across America and other parts of the globe will soon be reciting this old Halloween rite. It’s a fun (if maybe spooky) time for community members who plan events, purchase costumes and buy candy to share with others, even if they don’t grasp every nuance of the tradition.
The fight against climate change, for all its polarity and complexity, essentially boils down to the same blueprint: communities need to come together for the common good of all. Individuals trying to reduce their carbon footprint can have some effect on their own, but uniting schools and neighborhoods in a common cause will make a more substantial impact — the type needed to protect the future of the planet.
As our series on Energy Awareness Month winds down to a close, we take a look at how communities can rethink what it means to be stewards of the earth.
Many communities across the country, including those in urban areas, lack access to fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy produce. Instead, people living in these “food deserts” must turn to bodegas, small markets and dollar stores, most of which primarily sell unhealthy, sugary processed foods.
To combat this scarcity, many urban communities have turned to community gardening. These concrete-surrounded farms provide neighborhoods with access to local, fresh produce at prices much cheaper than retail.
Schools that implement community gardens provide the opportunity for communities to grow stronger, as the nurturing of plants must be facilitated and scheduled among a large number of students and volunteers. Gardens give students and teachers a different environment in which they can interact with peers.
What does this have to do with conservation? Walking outside and picking out vegetables for students to bring home can save a trip to the store. On a more macro level, decreasing reliance on processed foods curbs the demand for these products. As a result, processed food companies scale back production — and energy use.
Perhaps the greatest benefit comes with a direct environmental impact. Community gardens decrease reliance on food grown on factory farms. Commercially-sourced food has a sizeable carbon footprint, as it is transported great distances to reach the dinner table.
Along the same lines of managing food supply, schools can turn to composting to recycle uneaten food. Composting works just like regular recycling — uneaten food and organic material are placed in a designated bin or zone for repurposing.
However, this waste is not collected by a third party. Instead, organic waste is placed in an outdoor container or section to decompose. After weeks of decomposition, the dirt is fertilized and enriched through nutrients from the rotting waste. This dirt can be used for planting, where it serves a useful purpose rather than sitting in a landfill.
Many individuals, schools and neighborhoods already use composting to demonstrate the benefits of recycling. The EPA estimates that 30 percent of all waste comes from compostable organic materials, so more communities adopting this practice can significantly reduce the amount of trash heading to landfills.
Schools can pair composting with gardening to educate students on the amount of food waste they can repurpose and encourage student engagement. The peripheral aspects of gardening and composting — e.g., culinary, biological and even engineering programs — provide hands-on learning to students of all ages.
Helping manage a garden and contributing to composting efforts instills a sense of responsibility in students, encouraging them to be stewards of the earth.
Community Exchange Sales
Community exchange sales are a type of garage sale run at a collective level. Organizations, such as a school or nonprofit, collect donations from the public and sell them at affordable prices.
Rather than donating to a for-profit corporation, volunteer-run community exchange sales are organized as bona-fide fundraisers. Here, meeting the community’s needs takes priority instead of maximizing revenue.
In addition to the myriad benefits provided to the public, the environmental impact these sales make is undeniable. Buying secondhand clothes fulfills a need without requiring the consumption of additional resources.
Especially considering the astronomical amount of resources required for the creation of new clothing, buying hand-me-downs helps preserve water sources in third world countries and avoids the use of unethical labor practices. Additionally, the production of clothing harms many communities around the world and poisons the surrounding environments. Exchange sales make an impact at both the local and global levels.
Interactive Lessons in Sustainability
Sponsoring volunteer activities on weekends can bring students, teachers and parents together over the common cause of bettering the community.
The act of planting trees — which remove carbon dioxide and pollution from the atmosphere and increase air quality — goes a long way to protect the environment and empower students to be conscientious stewards of the earth.
Another way to inspire an attitude of sustainability in students is through an environmentally centric class field trip. Taking kids to an arboretum, aquarium or organic farm is a hands-on way to show how humans interact with nature and why sustainability is such an important concept.
However, for students to see firsthand the positive impact they can have on the environment, cleaning up local ecosystems maximizes learning opportunities. Nearly every state has an Adopt a Highway program that encourages organizations to regularly clean the roadsides of highways and interstates. Similar groups exist that focus on cleaning waterways and beaches, giving science teachers an opportunity to integrate learning objectives with environmentalism.
Climate change is a problem that affects us all, and only by uniting around change and inspiring the next generation to be stewards of the earth will there be a worthwhile future. The onus is on communities to emphasize sustainability — and schools can play a key role in facilitating this important movement.
Even if communities are able to fundamentally alter their outlook on conservation, organizations need to play their part. If you think your organization can do more to reduce its energy use and create a culture of accountability, contact us for more information at 1-855-798-7779 or visit Cenergistic.com.