Going Beyond the 3R's at Your School

Keys to Solid Success

Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling are just one aspect of an environmentally conscious school. Minimizing your school’s impact on the environment also includes adopting an efficient energy plan, implementing a "Buying Recycled" procurement plan, establishing an organic and environmentally preferable lawn care strategy, and reducing indoor air pollution. These pollution prevention techniques will help the environment and improve the health and safety of those working, attending, or visiting your school.

Schools that make environmentally healthy practices a priority can also save money through reduced consumption of goods and energy, increased efficiency of operations and resource use, creating preferable learning and teaching conditions, avoiding future liability problems, and teaching the next generation the value of environmental stewardship. Remember to "Think Big, but Start Small"! Trying to address all of these issues at one time will be overwhelming, so try to focus on the strategies that will have the largest impact with the least amount of work. Once you have instituted these programs, you will have the momentum to expand your program to other areas.

Buying Recycled - Sustainable and Recycled Content Purchasing

In order to close the recycling loop, we must purchase post-consumer recycled products. Without strong demand for such products, the loop is broken and the system breaks down. While you may be recycling at school, if you are not purchasing recycled content products you cannot guarantee that there will be a market for those goods you have recycled. The quantity and quality of recycled products has grown tremendously over the years. You can now purchase recycled content products ranging from your standard white office paper to the pens used to write your notes. These resources will guide you as you establish an environmentally preferable procurement plan.

Buying Recycled Products  (CT DEEP)

Green Cleaning

Standard cleaning products contain harsh solvents and surfactants that can present a hazard to exposed populations and can be toxic to aquatic species in waters receiving inadequately treated wastes. Cleaning products can reduce air quality and increase water pollution. Using environmentally preferable cleaning products that use natural solvents and surfactants as cleaning agents, will decrease harmful algal blooms improving local and regional water quality, and will improve the indoor air quality for students and teachers that spend hours indoors, reducing their risk of short term health effects and long term health effects, such as asthma.

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (CT DAS)

Healthy Environments in Connecticut Schools  (CT Dept. of Public Health)

Green Seal Certified Products   (Green Seal)

New York’s Green Cleaning Program (New York State Office of General Services)

Responsible Purchasing Guide for Cleaners  (Responsible Purchasing Network)

Energy Efficiency

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

Schools spend more money on energy than on textbooks.  Typical energy costs are second only to salaries.
~APS Solutions for Business


Turn off lights and electronic equipment overnight and when not in use.
Hold more classes outside on nice days!


Traditional energy production methods release large amounts of greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the atmosphere. The extracting and refining of common fuel sources like coal can result in numerous adverse environmental effects, including the elimination of existing vegetations, the destruction of the soil profile, and the production of acid mine drainage. Additionally, Connecticut public schools spend over $160 million dollars annually on energy. With rising energy costs, more and more of the school board’s budget must be allocated towards energy expenses resulting in reduced funds for extracurricular activities and educational field trips. By increasing your school’s energy efficiency you will not only be saving money, which can be put towards increasing your education programs, you will also be decreasing the detrimental effects that result from the current energy production methods!

Energy Star for K-12 School Districts (Energy Star)

Powersave Schools  (Alliance to Save Energy)

Teaching the Teachers - (CT Clean Energy Fund)

Eco-Friendly Lawn Care for All School Green Spaces

Traditional lawn care methods use pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides to control unwanted pests, weeds, and fungus. These substances, which are designed to destroy a specific target species, reach a different destination 9 out of 10 times. Pesticides have the ability to contaminate the air, water, and land during production, application, and at the end of life. Additionally, some lawn care chemicals can be harmful to children’s health and well being with long term exposure. As of July 1, 2010, pesticides can no longer be used on the grounds of day cares, elementary and middle schools in Connecticut. Schools will need to adopt organic lawn care techniques including integrated pest management, organic fertilizers, and proper aeration.

CT Law Banning Pesticide Use on School Grounds  (CT General Assembly)

Transitioning to Organic Land Care for Municipalities and Schools  (CT DEEP)

Locally Grown Food Program for School Lunches

As the rates of childhood and adolescent obesity climb, school lunches have been called into question. School lunches have been cited as a culprit, since nutrition was not initially the main focus of the school lunch program. School lunch programs are now moving from providing a lunch to every child to providing a healthy lunch to every child. Organic and/or locally grown food is now being incorporated into public school lunches to teach children the value of a healthy well balanced and fresh meal. Locally grown food is fresher and tastier than food from other regions in the United States or food imported from other countries. Local farms have the luxury of planting crops that are designed for flavor and not for shelf-life. Using locally grown and produced food also helps the environment by reducing the amount of energy required to deliver your food to your table, reducing the necessary packaging for each product, and by encouraging farmers to use proper land management practices. Buying locally grown food will improve your health and the health of your local environment!

What’s Cooking in Connecticut Schools?  (CT Food Policy Council)

CT Farm to School - Home Page (CT DoAg)   CT Profile (National Farm to School Network)   

Buy CT Grown   (City Seed)

Project Food, Land and People   Educator Workshop Curricula - (CT DEEP)  Supplementary educational material designed to emphasize the environment and our agricultural impact. This project was designed to complement Project Learning Tree, WILD, Agriculture in the Classroom materials, and national youth programs. To learn more about this program, email Susan Quincy susan.quincy@ct.gov or call (203) 734-2513.  National Food, Land, and People website.

Local Food Dude  A food blog by Chef Tim, who is active in CT school food programs.

Sustainable Food Systems  (Sustainable Food Systems, LLC)

Sustainable Table  (GRACE)

Food For Thought - The Ojai Healthy Schools Program  (Food For Thought)

Rethinking School Lunch (Center for Ecoliteracy)

CT Food Systems Alliance

Build Green Schools

Designing and building environmentally preferable schools benefits both the inhabitants of the building and the environment. Green schools cost less to operate since they are designed with energy efficiency in mind, freeing up resources that can be devoted to improving students’ education. The buildings have carefully planned acoustics and abundant daylight making it easier and more comfortable for students to learn. Additionally, the clean indoor air reduces the number of sick days each child has a year and provides students with a platform for a healthy future. Green buildings also use less energy, less water, and more sustainable building materials reducing their impact on the environment.

Center for Green Schools (US Green Building Council)

Designing for Recycling in Schools (CT DEEP)

Green Schools in Connecticut  (CT Green Building Council)

Construction & Demolition Materials Management (CT DEEP)

Green Curriculums

Recipe for Sustainable Science - An Introduction to Green Chemistry in the Middle School  Based on the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry, this curriculum is designed to be a simulation of actual business methodology in which students are challenged to manufacture a crayon. It introduces teachers and their students to the topic of Green Chemistry and provides a hands-on inquiry-based unit in which middle level students can explore this emerging approach to chemical manufacturing. This multi-disciplinary curriculum also includes social studies, science, math, and language arts lesson plans and has been specifically designed to implement as a teaching team or through the discipline of your choice. Free lesson plans are available in both English and Spanish.  (Beyond Benign)

Solutions in Green Chemistry - An Introduction to Green Chemistry in the High School   This curriculum module was originally developed through funding from the Pfizer Foundation to introduce teachers and their students to the topic of Green Chemistry, explore green chemistry technologies and to provide a hands-on inquiry based unit in which high school students can explore this emerging approach to chemical manufacturing. The curriculum unit has three focused goals: firstly, to encourage teachers to convert their laboratory classrooms to use green methodologies. Secondly to think differently about the way that they deliver content to students and to put that content into the context of sustainability and lastly but most importantly to inspire students to get excited about chemistry and the possibilities it holds for solving societies problems in the future.  (Beyond Benign)

Additional Resources

CT Green LEAF Schools Program (ECSU) CT certification program, step toward becoming a national Green Ribbon School

Pollution Prevention for Schools and Universities (CT DEEP)

7 Steps to Green Your School  (Green School Initiative)

Green School’s Checklist - Environmental Actions for Schools to Consider (IL EPA)


Content Last Updated February 2020