Begin your search for these products by asking whether the product is reusable, recyclable, or made with materials containing few or no toxic ingredients? When buying supplies, trust your nose. An item that smells bad probably isn't good for you. No standardized green label of approval exists for all items in the writing implements and school supplies category; however, these useful guides and tips can help with the search.
Flooring is complicated. When deciding what to install, weigh the durability and maintenance of a floor against how it will impact acoustics. Another factor worth considering is the hardness of the surface, an issue of concern especially at elementary schools.
No standardized green label exists for all information-technology products and related equipment, such as printers, projectors, and interactive whiteboards. However, the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), offered by the Green Electronics Council, a highly respected third-party certifier, covers computer desktops, laptops, monitors, workstations, and thin clients -- computers that rely on a central server to perform most operations.
For cash-strapped schools, a green retrofit can seem like a pipe dream. But there are outside funding sources -- private donations and corporate donors -- dedicated to reducing the carbon footprints. Federal and state governments are also prepared to write checks for administrators ready to improve their schools' eco-profiles. Sean Miller, of the Earth Day Network, suggests these five sources as a start:
When it comes to paper, start by brainstorming about how to use less of it. Ways to conserve can be as simple as sending an email instead of a fax or printing documents single-spaced on both sides of paper. Conserving on copier paper is a particularly green-savvy move, since this is the lion's share of the paper schools buy.
Green Seal and EcoLogo, two respected third-party certifiers, ease the burden of time-strapped school purchasers in search of green cleaning products. They certify most types of products used for cleaning schools -- general surface, floor, window, and bathroom cleaners. Certification means products clean effectively, and unlike many conventional cleaners, the packaging is recyclable and the products are noncorrosive (corrosive products can cause burns to skin, eyes, and mucus membranes).
Now in high demand, low-VOC paint is widely available at affordable prices. This is a healthier alternative to traditional paints, which contain VOCs. Even years after application, these paints have been known to release low levels of toxins, resulting in irritants that cause respiratory and asthma-related reactions. Here are a few suggestions for taking your green efforts up a few notches when selecting paints.
Reveca, a mother of four, struggles to support her family by selling flowers on the streets of her village in Peru. But thanks to a $325 loan from high school students in the United States, she recently expanded her small retail operation.