Can teachers and students make a school more sustainable?

Guest Blog by Halleh Landon, PE, LEED AP BD+C

Green, LEED and Sustainability are all great concepts that sometimes seem complicated to implement.  It is important to know that it is easy to apply their principles in day-to-day activities without great cost implications. There are changes that can be made in a classroom that can greatly contribute to the overall performance and attitude of an entire campus.  It can be easy to get overwhelmed when trying to implement these changes – so here is a place to start.

Put a potted plant on your desk.   It will bring a piece of the outdoors inside and help to clean the air.  Encourage the kids to participate and take turns giving it water.  Anything that can create opportunities for them to be mindful of taking care of their environment will be beneficial.

Turn off the lights when you are not in the classroom.  Remind the students and teachers by placing signs in conspicuous areas.  In addition, some utility companies offer rebates for installing motion sensors, which will ensure that you are only using energy when necessary. 

Install low-flow aerators in your faucets.  They cost around $5 each and can reduce the amount of water used by up to 50 percent.  For more information on how students and teachers can make their own changes to conserve water, you can visit the Arizona Project WET website.

Walk, bike, carpool or ride the bus to school.  By not driving, you can reduce the amount of harmful emissions in the environment, not to mention reducing traffic around the campus.

Reduce, reuse and recycle.  It seems that the kids are already getting a handle on these concepts.  Help them to continue their efforts by having dedicated receptacles in the classroom.  You can even ask parents to volunteer taking the collected items home, or you can create classroom/art projects out of your recycled items.

Eliminate the use of harsh chemicals and deodorizers in the classrooms.  There are many different options available today to clean effectively without creating harmful fumes in the classroom.  There are many old schools that don’t have adequate ventilation or outside air and any fumes can be detrimental to the health of teachers and students.

ENERGY STAR benchmark your school.  This is a no-cost option to see how your school is performing with respect to national energy efficiency standards (

Start small, share your knowledge, and educate your students (and parents).  Empower them to make a difference and inspire them to take part in preserving natural resources!

Halleh Landon is the USGBC Green School Advocate for Arizona. She is also a registered electrical engineer and Vice President of Energy Systems Design, Inc., a Scottsdale, AZ-based team of MPE consulting engineers dedicated to sustainable design.


Filed under Education, Recycling, Sustainability

3 responses to “Can teachers and students make a school more sustainable?

  1. excellent tips! thanks for the inspiration. love the idea of teaching our children early! im not a teacher but im getting a plant for my desk tomorrow!

  2. I love the idea of putting a potted plant on your desk to bring the outdoors in and having students take turns watering it. I am sure they will love this too!

  3. jd

    great article! well said!!