Schools are a big player in the consumer economy. Public school districts spend approximately $450 Billion per year, and that figure doesn’t even give a complete picture since teachers spend approximately $1.3 Billion per year out of their own pockets for school supplies and other classroom needs. (This statistic is actually down from $3.5 billion in the 2009-2010 school year – another example of the effects of the great recession). However, a positive aspect of these numbers is that they can help shift the focus to greener, healthier and less toxic materials.
Image courtesy of lorijsullivan.com
Many teachers know that the items they buy for the classroom can positively influence children’s education, but may not realize that they can also influence the green economy. 92% of all teachers reported spending their own money to purchase classroom items, according to research by the National School Supply & Equipment Association. And the average individual amount spent by these generous teachers is $356 per year. This adds up to a big chunk of change. If each teacher opts for similarly priced eco-aware versions of the school supplies they need, it is sure to have an incredible impact on the green products market (and hopefully help lower the prices). Teachers can further their impact by encouraging the purchase of eco-conscious items on the back-to-school shopping lists that are often handed out to students in the beginning of the school year. Here are a few things to look out for:
- Get creative with non-toxic or water-based paints and markers
- Write with recycled pencils
- Buy notebooks made with recycled paper and encourage students to write on both sides
- Bring your own recycling bin if your school doesn’t provide one
- Change your light bulbs! Look for the energy star label
- Clean up with paper towels made with recycled materials, and when possible, use a rag instead
- Bring your own green cleaning products if your school doesn’t already use them
In addition to the influence of individual teachers, schools are also striving to be greener. Many school districts are formalizing these initiatives by implementing environmentally preferable purchasing policies. The goals of such policies are to better human health and the environment, to encourage pool/bulk purchasing (which saves money and lowers the carbon footprint associated with shipping), and to advocate for more efficient large appliances (such as EnergyStar rated items).
All of these green supplies are sure to set an example for children and hopefully encourage them to become ethical consumers. After all, these children will someday be leading us into a post-carbon economy!