Healthy, Sustainable School Food Initiatives

More than 30 million children in the U.S. eat a school lunch five days a week, 180 days a year. Most students have little to no idea where their food comes from, how it is grown and harvested, how it is processed, and the impact on the environment of its production, processing and transport. Learn about healthy, sustainable food initiatives that can be implemented at your school to bring in fresh, local food; provide healthy meals in school cafeterias; improve student nutrition; offer curricular connections on food and nutrition; and connect schools to their local communities and farms.

Tip: Also visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you improve the health & sustainability of your school!

Before You Start

Form an Action Team

USDA Toolkit: Build a Farm-to-School Team

Eco Schools: Top Ten Tips for School Food Sustainability

Design and Preparation

Conduct a Sustainable Food Audit

Check Out Some Model Urban Programs:

  • Lunchroom Collective: Greater Washington DC Area
  • The Food Trust Healthy School Toolkit
  • The Food Trust Approach to Nutrition Education
  • Great Kids Farm
  • Implementation

    Develop a Sustainable Food Action Plan

    Healthy Sustainable Food Initiatives:

  • Become a Team Nutrition School:

  • Learn About & Enhance Your School Wellness Policy:

  • Start a Healthy School Lunch Campaign
  • Host a Food Day Event!
  • Find Cool Food & Nutrition Activities & Programs Happening in Schools!
  • Become a Recipe for Success Affiliate Partner
  • Cook Up Change! National competition to create a healthy school meal
  • Participate in the Farm to Cafeteria Conference
  • Become a Seed Change Partner to Create a Farm-To-School Program
  • Use K-12 Compliant Recipes, Menus, Training & Promotion Toolkit
  • Start a Fuel Up to Play 60 Program
  • Check Out Real Food for Real Kids Programs & Chapters
  • Join/Start an Alliance for Healthy Schools Program (Search by State)
  • Get Involved with Your Local Food Policy Council (State Directory)
  • Become a Farm to School Network Partner or Member
  • Also See: Procuring Healthy, Sustainable Food for Schools
  • Also See: Edible School Gardens
  • Also See: Recycling & Waste Reduction Projects
  • Using Your Project

    In Defense of Food Curriculum (ages 10+)

    Johns Hopkins FoodSpan: Standards Aligned High School Curriculum

    EPA Lesson Plans, Teacher Guides & Online Resources for Educators

    Eco Schools Sustainability Pathways & Resources

    Eco Schools National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Sharing Your Project

    Team Nutrition Popular Events Idea Notebook

    Engage EVERYONE with the “The School Day Just Got Healthier” Toolkit!

    Involve Parents & Others Enhancing & Implementing a School Wellness Policy

    Nutrition Education & Promotion Materials

    Forward Food Posters, Postcards & More

    Golden Carrot Award: Food Service Healthy School Lunch Improvement

    Create Signs About Healthy Food Tips & Efforts

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    National & State Green Schools Programs
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    Where Your Food Comes From: Farm-Based Education Network Resources
    Farm to School Network Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Procuring Healthy, Sustainable
    Food for Schools

    As the American diet has shifted towards more processed, high-fat, high-sugar foods, the health of our children has suffered. Obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Today, over 18% of children ages 6–19 are obese. Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer and osteoarthritis as adults. With more than 30 million students, schools play a critical role providing opportunities for children to access healthier food and practice nutritious eating. For many students, school is their only consistent source of nourishment through meal programs. While at first glance it may seem daunting to adjust a school food procurement system to healthier (ideally local) choices, there are an increasing number of schools and districts that have already set a precedent with healthy, innovative programs.  Learn more about procuring healthy, sustainable food for your school to provide nourishing meals and teach children about food choices, nutrition, and the food system.

    Tip: Also visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you improve the health & sustainability of your school!

    Before You Start

    Form an Action Team

    USDA Toolkit: Build a Farm-to-School Team

    Eco Schools: Top Ten Tips for School Food Sustainability

    Design and Preparation

    Conduct a Sustainable Food Audit

    Implementation

    Develop a Sustainable Food Action Plan

    Procure Healthy Food for Your School:

  • School Food Focus: Procurement Change Toolkit
  • Guide to Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs
  • Good Procurement Practices, Competitive Purchasing & Forecasting
  • School Meal Policy Guidance:

  • USDA Food & Nutrition Service School Meal Policy Guidance
  • Sample Policy & Protocols for School Gardens & Garden to Cafeteria
  • Get Involved with Your Local Food Policy Council (State Directory)
  • Networking Opportunities:

  • USDA Toolkit: Build a Farm-to-School Team
  • Participate in the Farm to Cafeteria Conference
  • Become a Seed Change Partner to Create a Farm-To-School Program
  • Join/Start an Alliance for Healthy Schools Program (Search by State)
  • Become a Farm to School Network Partner or Member
  • Also See: Healthy, Sustainable School Food Initiatives

    Also See: Edible Food Gardens

    Using Your Project

    In Defense of Food Curriculum (ages 10+)

    Johns Hopkins FoodSpan: Standards Aligned High School Curriculum

    EPA Lesson Plans, Teacher Guides & Online Resources for Educators

    Eco Schools Sustainability Pathways & Resources

    Eco Schools National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Sharing Your Project

    Team Nutrition Popular Events Idea Notebook

    Engage EVERYONE with the “The School Day Just Got Healthier” Toolkit!

    Involve Parents & Others Enhancing & Implementing a School Wellness Policy

    Nutrition Education & Promotion Materials

    Forward Food Posters, Postcards & More

    Golden Carrot Award: Food Service Healthy School Lunch Improvement

    Create Signs About Healthy Food Tips & Efforts

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    National & State Green Schools Programs
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    Where Your Food Comes From: Farm-Based Education Network Resources
    Farm to School Network Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Edible School Gardens

    Did you know that a typical carrot often travels nearly 2,000 miles to reach your table? Transporting our food from far away has a significant negative impact on the environment…plus it’s a lot more fun to grow a carrot than to wait for it to arrive on a truck! Research shows that children are more likely to try a new fruit or vegetable if they have been involved in planting, growing, and harvesting it. Edible gardens can provide healthy eating habits that will stay with kids throughout their lives. Edible school gardens not only provide fresh, nutritious foods for students to enjoy, but valuable learning experiences as well. In addition to providing the chance for kids to learn how to garden and grow food, edible gardens are living laboratories that provide vast opportunities for exploration and investigation. Learn how to design, build and utilize edible gardens at your school! (And remember: be sure to choose fruit, vegetable and herb plants that will produce while school is in session so kids can enjoy what they’ve grown!)

    Tip: Also visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you improve the health & sustainability of your school!

    Before You Start

    Overview: USDA Edible School Gardens Fact Sheet

    Eco Schools: Top Ten Tips for School Food Sustainability

    Form an Action Team

    School Grounds Site Assessment

    Design and Preparation

    Project Design & Preparation Basics

    Plants in the Schoolyard

    Conduct a Sustainable Food Audit

    Find School Garden Grants:

  • USFWS Schoolyard Guide: Money Matters
  • Food Corps: School Garden Grants
  • Kids Gardening: Youth Garden Grants
  • View Model Edible Schoolyards:

  • Edible Schoolyard Network
  • Founding Edible Schoolyards
  • Education Fund's Food Forests
  • Implementation

    Project Implementation Basics

    Develop a Sustainable Food Action Plan

    General Tips:

  • LifeLab: How To Create & Sustain a School Garden
  • Children’s Vegetable Garden Design Tips (Natural Learning Initiative)
  • Kids Gardening: Tips for Creating & Sustaining School Gardens
  • Policy & Protocols for School Gardens & Garden to Cafeteria (LifeLab)
  • Build Raised Beds, Salad Tables & Boxes:

  • Kids Gardening: Raised Beds 101
  • Planting Beds: BSI Outdoor Classrooms Design Guide
  • Instructables.Com: Raised Bed Instructions
  • Build Salad Tables and Salad Boxes
  • Become a Food Corps Service Site: Apply for School or District

    Also See: Healthy, Sustainable Food Initiatives

    Also See: Attracting Pollinators

    Maintenance

    Project Maintenance Basics

    Using Your Project

    Nutrition Education in the Garden: Best Practices

    Connecting the Garden to the Classroom

    LifeLab School Garden Curriculum, Online Lessons, Webinars & Workshops

    Edible Schoolyard Resources Search Engine

    Training: The Edible Schoolyard Academy

    Kids Gardening Educator Resources

    Growing School Gardens Professional Learning Community

    EPA Lesson Plans, Teacher Guides & Online Resources for Educators

    Eco Schools Sustainability Pathways & Resources

    Eco Schools National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Sharing Your Project

    Team Nutrition Popular Events Idea Notebook

    Engage EVERYONE with the “The School Day Just Got Healthier” Toolkit!

    Involve Parents & Others Enhancing & Implementing a School Wellness Policy

    Nutrition Education & Promotion Materials

    Forward Food Posters, Postcards & More

    Golden Carrot Award: Food Service Healthy School Lunch Improvement

    Create Signs About Healthy Food Tips & Efforts

    Make Signs & Host a Celebration

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    National & State Green Schools Programs
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    Where Your Food Comes From: Farm-Based Education Network Resources
    Farm to School Network Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Green Cleaning for Schools

    Green cleaning is a critical component of a healthy school environment. Custodial services often involve the use of many chemicals, some of which are toxic to humans and school site ecology.  Making simple changes in cleaning techniques and product choices, such as minimizing the use of harsh cleaners, solvent-based cleaners or cleaners with strong fragrances (which can exacerbate asthma symptoms) and switching to environmentally friendly cleaning products, can go a long way to protecting and improving the health of students, staff and the school environment. Learn more about implementing a green cleaning plan to protect custodial staff, students, teachers, and the natural environment.

    Tip: Also visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you improve the health & sustainability of your school!

    Before You Start

    Form an Action Team

    Center for Green Schools: Green Cleaning Video (7 mins)

    Center for Green Schools: Green Cleaning Companion Guide

    Overview: Protect Students & Staff with Green Cleaning (EPA)

    Design and Preparation

    Conduct a General Environmental Review Checklist

    Green Cleaning Program Assessment

    Conduct a Healthy Schools Audit

    EPA School Indoor Air Quality Assessment Mobile App

    Implementation

    Green Cleaning Action Plan Forms:

  • Create a Healthy Schools Action Plan
  • Sample Action Plan
  • Simplified Sample Action Plan
  • Blank Action Plan
  • Green Cleaning Initiatives:

  • 5 Steps to Green Cleaning in Schools
  • Use Specialized Green Cleaning Guides to Target Specific Areas
  • Effective School Cleaning and Maintenance Practices (EPA)
  • Tips for Teachers, Bus Drivers, Athletic, Maintenance & Food Service Staff
  • Purchasing Green & Sustainable Products
  • Safe Chemical Management in Schools
  • Also see: Ventilation, Air Quality, IPM
  • Tools for School Facilities Staff:

  • Overview: School Green Cleaning Laws
  • High-Performance Cleaning Program Plan (Implementation Workbook)
  • Sample Indoor Air Quality Management Plan (Implementation Workbook)
  • ISSA Green Cleaning Training & Resources
  • Green Clean Schools Webinars
  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards: hygiene information for hundreds of chemicals/classes
  • Also see: Ventilation, Air Quality, IPM
  • Using Your Project

    EPA Lesson Plans, Teacher Guides & Online Resources for Educators

    Eco Schools Sustainability Pathways & Resources

    Eco Schools National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Sharing Your Project

    Downloadable Green Cleaning Posters & PowerPoints

    Involve Parents in Creating a Healthy Indoor School Environment

    Create Signs About Green Cleaning & Green Product Tips & Efforts

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    National & State Green School Programs
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA: Healthy Schools, Healthy Kids!
    Healthy Schools Campaign: Green Clean Schools
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Purchasing Green & Sustainable Products for Schools

    Did you know that the primary sources of indoor exposure to airborne chemicals are furnishings, building materials and other products found in schools that can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particles into the air? These chemical emissions can contribute to a wide range of adverse health effects including asthma, upper respiratory irritation, fatigue, nasal congestion, nausea, dizziness and more.  Furthermore, chemicals found in many common cleaning products can cause similar health problems.

    Creating a sustainable purchasing policy helps meet facility needs while reducing chemical exposure in the school environment. Sustainable purchasing can also help slow the depletion of natural non-renewable resources, and materials purchased regionally help the local economy and reduce both the energy required for transportation and the associated greenhouse gas emissions. There is now a wide range of certified, effective, “green” products available. Learn more about establishing a sustainable purchasing policy and finding green certified products for your school.

    Tip: Also visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you improve the health & sustainability of your school!

    Before You Start

    Form an Action Team

    Center for Green Schools: Sustainable Purchasing (6 mins)

    Center for Green Schools: Sustainable Purchasing Companion Guide

    Overview: Protect Students & Staff with Green Cleaning (EPA)

    Design and Preparation

    Conduct a General Environmental Review Checklist

    Green Cleaning Program Assessment

    Conduct a Healthy Schools Audit

    Implementation

    Create a Healthy Schools Action Plan

    Develop a Sustainable Purchasing Program:

  • EPA: Purchasing Greener Products & Services
  • Guidance for Sustainable Purchasing Programs (Implementation Workbook)
  • Green & Sustainable Products: Databases & Certified Products

    Also See: Green Cleaning

    Using Your Project

    EPA Lesson Plans, Teacher Guides & Online Resources for Educators

    Eco Schools Sustainability Pathways & Resources

    Eco Schools National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Sharing Your Project

    Downloadable Green Cleaning Posters & PowerPoints

    Involve Parents in Creating a Healthy Indoor School Environment

    Create Signs About Green Cleaning & Green Product Tips & Efforts

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    National & State Green School Programs
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA: Healthy Schools, Healthy Kids!
    Healthy Schools Campaign: Green Clean Schools
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Safe Chemical Management in Schools

    From maintenance closets to chemistry labs, schools use a variety of chemicals. Not managed properly, chemicals can pose health and safety risks to students, school personnel and the environment and result in loss of education time and considerable expense. Toxic chemicals can cause health problems ranging from mild irritation of the eyes, skin, nose and throat, to more serious health issues such as asthma attacks, cancer, brain and nervous system disorders, and organ damage. Children are particularly vulnerable to environmental exposures because their bodily systems are still developing; they eat, drink & breathe more in proportion to their body size; and their behavior can expose them more to chemicals. A proper chemical management program ensures a school is free from hazards associated with mismanaged chemicals. Learn more about safely managing chemicals in classrooms, labs and throughout the school and school grounds, as well as greener alternatives for products such as cleaning supplies and furnishings

    Tip: Also visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you improve the health & sustainability of your school!

    Before You Start

    Form an Action Team

    Protect Students & Staff: Green Cleaning/Chemical Management

    Design and Preparation

    Conduct a General Environmental Review Checklist

    Green Cleaning Program Assessment (products, etc.)

    Conduct an Audit:

  • Healthy Schools Audit
  • Hazardous Materials Audit
  • Indoor Air Quality Audit
  • Laboratory Waste Audit
  • Pest Management Audit
  • EPA School Indoor Air Quality Assessment Mobile App
  • Implementation

    Action Plan Forms:

  • Healthy Schools Action Plan
  • Hazardous Materials Sample Action Plan & Blank Action Plan
  • Laboratory Chemicals Sample Action Plan & Blank Action Plan
  • Green Cleaning Sample & Blank Action Plans
  • Indoor Air Quality Sample Action Plan and Blank Action Plan
  • Pest Management Sample Action Plan and Blank Action Plan
  • School Chemical Management & Clean-Out Initiatives:

  • Quick Tips: Chemical Management in Schools (EPA)
  • Quick Tips: Reduce Exposure to Educational, Art & Science Supply Hazards
  • EPA: Managing Chemicals in Schools
  • Actions to Reduce School Chemical & Environmental Contaminant Hazards
  • Toolkits:

  • Toolkit for Safe Chemical Management in K-12 Schools
  • Chemical Management Resource Guide for School Administrators
  • School Chemical Clean-Out Toolkit
  • Purchasing Green & Sustainable Products

    Green Cleaning for Schools

    Implement an Integrated Pest Management Program

    Also see: Ventilation, Air Quality

    Using Your Project

    EPA Lesson Plans, Teacher Guides & Online Resources for Educators

    Eco Schools Sustainability Pathways & Resources

    Eco Schools National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Sharing Your Project

    Downloadable Green Cleaning Posters & PowerPoints

    Involve Parents in Creating a Healthy Indoor School Environment

    Create Signs About Green Cleaning, Green Products & Chemical Safety

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    National & State Green School Programs
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA: Healthy Schools, Healthy Kids!
    Healthy Schools Campaign: Green Clean Schools
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Improve & Protect School Air Quality

    Did you know that the air in our homes, schools and offices can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air? Most of our exposure to environmental pollutants occurs by breathing the air indoors. Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) can impact the comfort and health of students and staff, which can affect concentration, attendance and student performance. Additionally, if schools fail to respond promptly to poor IAQ, students and staff are at an increased risk of health problems such as fatigue, nausea, coughing, eye irritation, headaches, asthma episodes, and allergic reactions.

    The goal of an IAQ Management Program is to prevent the occurrence of problems and to respond quickly to issues before they become serious health matters. Simple, low-cost actions can save money, improve health and decrease student and staff absenteeism.  School facilities & maintenance staff are vital in maintaining proper school-wide Heating, Air Conditioning and Ventilation (HVAC) systems, and addressing problems, but good IAQ in a school is everyone’s responsibility! Learn more below about steps to improve air quality at your school.

    Tip: Also visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you improve the health & sustainability of your school!

    Before You Start

    Form an Action Team

    Center for Green Schools: Indoor Environmental Quality Video (9mins)

    Center for Green Schools: Indoor Environmental Quality Companion Guide

    Design and Preparation

    Conduct a General Environmental Review Checklist

    Conduct an Indoor Air Quality Audit

    Conduct a Mold Growth Audit

    EPA School Indoor Air Quality Assessment Mobile App

    EPA Indoor Air Quality Design Tools for Schools

    Model Programs:

  • EPA: School IAQ Case Studies
  • EPA Regional Models: Indoor Air Quality Champions
  • Implementation

    EPA Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Action Kit

    Action Plan Forms (review program options, then create action plan):

  • Sample Indoor Air Quality Action Plan
  • Blank Indoor Air Quality Action Plan
  • Sample Mold Action Plan
  • Blank Mold Action Plan
  • School Air Quality Improvement Program Options:

  • Participate in the EPA Colored Flag Program for Air Quality Forecasts
  • Implement a Fragrance Free School Policy
  • Prevent & Address Mold in Schools
  • Implement Asthma-Friendly School Initiatives
  • Ensure Proper Ventilation
  • Green Cleaning for Schools
  • Purchase Green & Sustainable Products
  • Safe Chemical Management in Schools
  • Implement Programs to Reduce Vehicle Idling
  • Implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program
  • Integrate IAQ Protection with Energy Efficiency Improvements
  • Tools for School Facilities Staff:

  • Sample Indoor Air Quality Management Plan
  • Ensure Proper Ventilation
  • Test for Radon
  • Test for Asbestos
  • Using Your Project

    EPA Breathing Easy Lesson

    EPA Lesson Plans, Teacher Guides & Online Resources for Educators

    Eco Schools Sustainability Pathways & Resources

    Eco Schools National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Sharing Your Project

    Involve Parents in Creating a Healthy Indoor School Environment

    Create Signs About School Air Quality Tips & Efforts

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    National & State Green School Programs
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    School Energy Efficiency Strategies

    Did you know the nation’s over 17,000 K-12 school districts spend more than $8 billion annually on energy (more than is spent on computers and textbooks combined)? States spend more on energy than any other school-related expense, aside from personnel. As much as 30% of a district’s total energy is used inefficiently, which has a significant impact: In addition to wasting money, using 1 kWH of electricity can result in over two pounds of carbon dioxide being emitted! In contrast, ENERGY STAR certified schools use 35% less energy than typical buildings and emit 35% less carbon dioxide.

    Through simple changes in behavior, a significant reduction in school energy usage can be achieved quickly and easily. In fact, a school that engages in good energy practices can end up using over one-third less energy than the average school! By implementing energy conservation measures and using energy efficient technologies, schools can easily reduce energy bills by 5-20% without significant capital investment. Even better, school districts can use the savings from lower energy bills to pay for building upgrades that enhance the health and quality of the learning environment. Learn more about opportunities to create fun and efficient energy savings programs at your school!

    Tip: Also visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you improve the health & sustainability of your school!

    Before You Start

    Form an Action Team

    Green Existing Schools: Energy Management Web Training (8mins)

    Green Existing Schools: Energy Management Companion Guide

    View a Model Program: Montgomery Co. School Energy & Recycling Team (SERT)

    Design and Preparation

    Conduct a General Environmental Review Checklist

    Assess Your School’s Energy Usage

    Finance Your Project:

  • ENERGY STAR: Finance Energy Efficiency Projects
  • Save Energy, Save Money: Energy Financing Options
  • Implementation

    Create an Energy Action Plan (review options & develop an action plan)

  • Simple Steps to Save Energy
  • Implement a PowerSave Schools Program
  • Toolkit to Create an Energy Conservation Program: Center for Green Schools
  • Power It Down: Implement a Low Carbon IT Campaign
  • Conduct a Lights Out! Campaign
  • Plan an Energy Efficiency Competition
  • Energy.Gov: Energy Competitions for K-12 Students
  • Participate in the Green Energy Challenge!
  • Renewable Energy & Green Roofs: Solar Panels, Geothermal, Wind
  • Using Your Project

    Energy.Gov: Energy Literacy Education (including alignment with NGSS)

    Energy.Gov: Lesson Plans, Science Projects & Activities (K-12)

    Energy.Gov: Energy Literacy Videos

    Energy.Gov: Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy 101 Video Series

    National Energy Education Development Project: Curriculum Resources

    EPA Lesson Plans on Energy (K-12)

    PowerSave Schools Lesson Plans

    PowerSave Schools Resources: Teachers & Students

    ENERGY STAR Kids

    Project Learning Tree: Energy & Society Kit

    Bay Backpack Climate Change Lessons & Activities

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    EPA MyEnvironment: Search Tool of Environmental Data by Zipcode

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Energy.Gov: U.S. Department of Energy Education Homepage
    EnergyStar
    National & State Green School Programs
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

    Traditional pest control involves the routine application of pesticides. In addition to posing a dire threat to pollinators and biodiversity, pesticides can have short and long-term impact on children’s health. Children are more sensitive than adults to pesticides and young children especially can have greater exposure to pesticides from crawling, exploring, or other hand-to-mouth activities. Adverse effects of pesticide exposure range from mild symptoms to serious, long-term neurological, developmental and reproductive disorders.

    The EPA recommends that schools use an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan to reduce pesticide risk and exposure.  IPM is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach that offers a wide variety of tools to reduce contact with pests and exposure to pesticides. EPA recommends a “Smart, Sensible & Sustainable” approach to pest control. Smart: IPM creates a safer and healthier learning environment by managing pests and reducing children’s exposure to pests and pesticides. Sensible: Practical strategies reduce sources of food, water & shelter for pests in school buildings and on grounds. Sustainable: The emphasis is on prevention, which is economically advantageous. Learn more below about developing an effective school IPM plan. In addition to the resources noted, county and state cooperative extension offices offer excellent IPM information!

    Tip: Also visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you improve the health & sustainability of your school!

    Before You Start

    Introduction to IPM: Principles & Benefits

    Introduction to IPM in Schools

    Form an Action Team

    Green Existing Schools Web Training: Groundskeeping (6mins)

    Green Existing Schools Companion Guide: Groundskeeping

    EPA Webinars: Pest Management in Schools

    Design and Preparation

    Conduct a General Environmental Review Checklist

    Conduct a Pest Management Audit

    Easy Start: 15 Simple Steps to Reduce Pests at School

    Implementation

    Healthy Schools Action Plan

    Sample Pest Management Action Plan

    Blank Pest Management Action Plan

    EPA: Steps to Establish a School IPM Program

    IPM Institute School IPM Toolkit

    Pesticides & Pollinators: Reduce Pesticide Risks to Pollinators

    Tools for School Facilities Staff:

  • Greening Schools Implementation Guide: Outdoor IPM Sample Plan
  • Greening Schools Implementation Guide: Indoor IPM Sample Plan
  • Green Shield Certified Products
  • Need Help? EPA Contacts for IPM in Schools

    Using Your Project

    Student IPM Curriculum for K-12 Teachers

    EPA Lesson Plans, Teacher Guides & Online Resources for Educators

    EPA Pesky Pests & Household Hazards Lesson Plan (Ages 9-13)

    Eco Schools Sustainability Pathway Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Stop School Pests IPM Professional Development Training for School Staff

    Apply for IPM STAR certification!

    School IPM Recognition & Certification

    Signs: Share About IPM

    EPA Pesticide Posters

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    IPM Institute of North America: School IPM
    EPA: Pesticide Information for Students and Teachers
    National & State Green School Programs
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Food Waste Reduction & Composting

    According to a recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, getting food from “farm to our fork” eats up 10% of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50% of U.S. land, and swallows 80% of all freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40% of food in the U.S. today goes uneaten. Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year and that uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills as the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste where it accounts for a large portion of U.S. methane gas emissions.  So what can schools do about this? 

    Every school day each student generates about two pounds or more of compostable materials. Combining food waste reduction strategies and composting efforts can help schools significantly reduce waste. Composting takes things a step beyond “reduce, reuse, recycle”: Students can do more than sending items off for recycling; they can see the entire cycle of natural conversion from “yucky” food scraps to a material that is beneficial and usable. They learn through direct experience that they can make a difference and have a positive effect on the environment. In addition, measureable food waste reduction and composting are rich topics for investigation and discovery across the curriculum.

    Tip: Also visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you improve the health & sustainability of your school!

    Before You Start

    Form an Action Team

    Center for Green Schools: Recycling & Waste Management Video (9mins)

    Center for Green Schools: Recycling & Waste Management Companion Guide

    Review: Getting Started - Which Can Do I Put This In?

    Design and Preparation

    Conduct a General Environmental Review Checklist

    Preliminary Recycling & Waste Management Questions to Consider

    Conduct a Consumption & Waste Audit

    View a Model Program: Montgomery Co. School Energy & Recycling Team (SERT)

    Successful Examples: School Composting Programs (NERC)

    Implementation

    Waste Reduction Action Plan (review options & develop an action plan):

  • Implement a School Food Service Waste Reduction Program
  • Implement an EPA "Food: Too Good to Waste" Campaign (toolkit)
  • School Composting Options
  • Start a School Composting Program
  • Vermi-Composting: Start a Classroom Worm Bin
  • Build a Composting Bin or System: Designs
  • Build a Two-Can Bioreactor
  • Build a Soda Bottle Bio-Reactor
  • Also See: Waste Free Snacks & Lunches
  • Using Your Project

    LifeLab: Ultimate School Composting Resource Page

    LifeLab: Composting Lessons & Videos

    Student Compost Research Projects

    Elementary School Worm Bin Cross-Curricular Connections

    EPA Planet Protectors Activities for Kids: Waste Reduction & Recycling

    Design a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Science Fair Project

    Participate in the Waste Reduction Challenge

    Join EPA's WasteWise Program

    Eco-School Consumption & Waste Pathway Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    EPA Lesson Plans on Waste

    Waste Reduction Curriculum & Activities (Green Education Foundation)

    Project Leaning Tree Solid Waste Curriculum

    (K-12) Books on Waste Reduction & Recycling (Green Education Foundation)

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Teachers: Start a Planet Protectors Club (EPA)

    Create Signs About Recycling & Waste Reduction

    Make Signs & Host a Celebration

    Send Home Tips & Tools for Parents!

    Tips to Reduce Food Waste at Home

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    The Worm Guide: Vermi-Composting Guide for Teachers
    National & State Green School Programs
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Waste Free Lunches

    We have all come to depend on the many convenience products that are available to us, and nowhere is this more evident than in the school lunchroom. Many parents pack lunch items in single-use plastic bags, aluminum foil, or plastic wrap, or they purchase single-serving items in disposable packages. Admittedly, these products are convenient for busy families, but what is the environmental cost? Landfills are full and overflowing. Incinerators pump contaminants into the air. Communities battle over who will accept the nation’s trash. We all enjoy these conveniences, but few of us are willing to allow new landfills and incinerators to be built in our backyards.

    Much of the trash we generate comes from food packaging. It has been estimated that on average a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year. That equates to 18,760 pounds of lunch waste for just one average-size elementary school! A waste-free lunch program educates students, parents & school staff about where our trash ends up and how we can reduce the amount of trash we generate. Waste-free lunch programs encourage the use of reusable food & drink containers, utensils, and napkins and discourage the use of disposable packaging, such as prepackaged foods, plastic bags, juice boxes & pouches, paper napkins, and disposable utensils. Learn more about starting a waste free snack & lunch program at your school!

    Tip: Also visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you improve the health & sustainability of your school!

    Before You Start

    Form an Action Team

    Center for Green Schools: Recycling & Waste Management Video (9mins)

    Center for Green Schools: Recycling & Waste Management Companion Guide

    Review: Getting Started - Which Can Do I Put This In?

    Design and Preparation

    Conduct a General Environmental Review Checklist

    Preliminary Recycling & Waste Management Questions to Consider

    Conduct a Consumption & Waste Audit

    View a Model Program: Montgomery Co. School Energy & Recycling Team (SERT)

    Implementation

    Waste Reduction Action Plan (review options & develop an action plan):

  • Start a Waste Free Lunch Program
  • Waste Free Lunch Tracking Sheet
  • Host a Waste Free Lunch Day
  • Host a Waste Free Snack Event
  • Promote Healthy Snacks Over Packaged Snacks
  • Using Your Project

    Participate in the Waste Reduction Challenge

    Join EPA's WasteWise Program

    Eco-School Consumption & Waste Pathway Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    EPA Lesson Plans on Waste

    Design a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Science Fair Project

    Waste Reduction Curriculum & Activities (Green Education Foundation)

    Project Leaning Tree Solid Waste Curriculum

    EPA Planet Protectors Activities for Kids: Waste Reduction & Recycling

    (K-12) Books on Waste Reduction & Recycling (Green Education Foundation)

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Pack a Waste Free Lunch Poster

    Print & Share the Waste Free Lunchbox Pamphlet!

    Email the Waste Free Lunch Pamphlet

    Present a Waste Free Lunch Slideshow!

    Send Home Tips & Tools for Parents!

    Teachers: Start a Planet Protectors Club (EPA)

    Create Signs About Recycling & Waste Reduction

    Make Signs & Host a Celebration

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    National & State Green School Programs
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Recycling & Waste Reduction Programs

    Being able to throw something away and never see it again makes it easy to ignore the impact we are having. The average person creates over 4 pounds of trash every day and about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year. It’s never too soon to turn things around! Think about this: Recycling one aluminum can save enough energy to run a 60-watt bulb for 20 hours, a laptop for 4 hours, or a TV for two hours. It takes a glass bottle approximately one million years to break down in a landfill. The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle will operate a 100-watt light bulb for four hours, and for every ton of recycled glass turned into new products, 315 kilograms of extra carbon dioxide that would have been released during the creation of new glass are saved! Recycling one ton of paper can save 17 trees, 7000 gallons of water and enough energy to power the average American home for six months – plus it reduces greenhouse gas emissions by one metric ton of carbon equivalent. If every American recycled one newspaper a week, we would save about 36 million trees a year!

    Ton for ton, recycling reduces more pollution, saves more energy and reduces Greenhouse Gas emissions more than any other solid waste management option. When schools recycle, they help to reduce fossil fuel usage, conserve resources, create local jobs and even generate extra funds for their school. Students who participate in recycling now will have more of an incentive to carry on this “habit” as adults. Learn more about recycling programs and events below, and remember: Share your efforts with the whole school, parents and the community to encourage more people to reduce, reuse & recycle!

    Tip: Also visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you improve the health & sustainability of your school!

    Before You Start

    Form an Action Team

    Center for Green Schools: Recycling & Waste Management Video (9mins)

    Center for Green Schools: Recycling & Waste Management Companion Guide

    Review: Getting Started - Which Can Do I Put This In?

    Design and Preparation

    Conduct a General Environmental Review Checklist

    Preliminary Recycling & Waste Management Questions to Consider

    Conduct a Consumption & Waste Audit

    Green Schools Implementation Workbook: Solid Waste Management Policy

    View a Model Program: Montgomery Co. School Energy & Recycling Team (SERT)

    Implementation

    Waste Reduction Action Plan (review options & develop an action plan):

  • Tips to Start a Recycling Program (Green Education Foundation)
  • Recycling Makes Sen$e Guide: Start or Expand a Recycling Program
  • Set up a Rural School Recycling Program
  • Use the EPA Waste Reduction Model Calculator
  • Host An America Recycles Day Event: November 15
  • Register to Compete in a Recycle-Bowl
  • Track & Compare Disposable vs. Reusable Cafeteria Ware (trays,etc)
  • Adopt a School Paper Use Reduction Policy
  • Earth 911: How to Recycle Anything (Click Recycle Guide)
  • Crayola Color Cycle: Recycle Markers
  • Extra Credit: Participate in the Trash on Your Back Challenge
  • Look into Incentive Programs:

  • Start an Electronic Recycling Program:

  • Using Your Project

    EPA Planet Protectors Activities for Kids: Waste Reduction & Recycling

    Recycle Rally: K-12 Incentives, Posters, Lessons, Tracker & More

    ReCommunity: Recycling Lesson Plans, Videos & Resources

    Crayola ColorCycle Lesson Plans

    Design a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Science Fair Project

    RecycleBowl Resources

    Recycling Journey: See Recycled Materials Become New Products

    Participate in the Waste Reduction Challenge

    Join EPA's WasteWise Program

    Eco-School Consumption & Waste Pathway Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    EPA Lesson Plans on Waste

    Waste Reduction Curriculum & Activities (Green Education Foundation)

    Project Leaning Tree Solid Waste Curriculum

    (K-12) Books on Waste Reduction & Recycling (Green Education Foundation)

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Teachers: Start a Planet Protectors Club (EPA)

    10-in-the-Bin Poster

    Recycling Poster (Green Education Foundation)

    ReCommunity: Infographic Recycling Posters

    Create Signs About Recycling & Waste Reduction

    Make Signs & Host a Celebration

    Tips to Send Home: Use Less Plastic

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    NorthEast Recycling Council
    Earth 911: How to Recycle Anything (Click Recycle Guide)
    National & State Green School Programs
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Features to Encourage
    Observation & Discovery

    Remember the line from the movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come”?  Unfortunately, that’s not always necessarily true.  Many a schoolyard project has failed because it wasn’t designed to encourage students, staff and visitors to use it. Whether you’ve planted a garden for wildlife, installed a wetland, grown a forest or meadow, built an outdoor classroom or nature play area, or you’re just in the planning and design phase of a project, incorporating elements to encourage people to utilize and interact with your project and the natural world is crucial. Learn more about adding features like trails, seating, weather stations, observation platforms, sensory elements, nature play & wildlife features and more to encourage observation and discovery by student and adults!

    Before You Start

    Review: Project Planning Basics

    Design and Preparation

    Review: Project Design & Preparation Basics

    Implementation

    Review: Project Implementation Basics

    Install Features to Encourage Observation & Discovery

    Also See: Outdoor Classrooms, Labs & Habitats

    Also See: Create a Nature Play Area

    Also See: Physical Fitness & Outdoor Time

    Maintenance

    Review: Project Maintenance Basics

    Using Your Project

    Overview: Using Your Project

    Fostering Outdoor Observation Skills-Citizen Science K-8 (AFWA)

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Create a Nature Play Area

    Nature play areas are spaces intentionally designed to integrate natural components into a place for structured and unstructured play and learning. Instead of (or in addition to) conventional metal and plastic play equipment, nature play spaces feature natural items, such as stump steppers, log seating & tables, plants, natural “loose parts” for building and making art,  water, sand, creative pathways, and more. Natural play spaces offer greater opportunities for creativity than a conventional playground can, while connecting children and nature and promoting future environmental stewardship.

    Tip: Also be sure to visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you to continue to improve the health and sustainability of your school indoors and out!

    Before You Start

    Form an Action Team

    Overview: Project Planning Basics

    Benefits of Connecting Children with Nature Info-Sheet

    Nature Play Areas: Frequently Asked Questions

    Nature Play & Learning in Early Childhood: Tips & Resources

    Design and Preparation

    Conduct a School-Wide Healthy Living Audit

    Conduct a School Grounds Site Assessment

    Nature Play Area Basics: Components, Activities, Photos

    Consider Design Options:

  • Nature Play Spaces Pattern Book: Project Green Classrooms
  • Schoolyard Design Guide (Boston Schoolyard Initiative)
  • Affordable Settings & Elements: Cost Effective Ideas
  • Top 10 Activity Settings: Natural Learning Initiative
  • Earthplay: 5 Nearly Free Do-it-Yourself Nature Play Projects
  • Play Outside! Database of outdoor play and learning resources
  • Critter Fun: Wildlife Habitat Projects
  • Embankment Slides
  • Vine Teepee Info-Sheet
  • Plants in the Schoolyard
  • Install Features for Observation & Discovery
  • Pinterest: Search for Creative & Easy Nature Play Ideas
  • Also See: Resource Center below (products, project photos, etc.)
  • Project Design & Preparation Basics

    Implementation

    Create a Healthy Living Action Plan

    Project Implementation Basics

    Safety

    Accessibility

    The Green Desk: Dynamic Question & Answer Resource

    Also See: Physical Fitness & Outdoor Time

    Maintenance

    Project Maintenance Basics

    Review: Safety

    Using Your Project

    Overview: Using Your Project

    Install Features for Observation & Discovery

    Fostering Outdoor Observation Skills-Citizen Science K-8 (AFWA)

    Nature Play & Learning in Early Childhood

    Educator Tools: Science STEM & Environmental Education Supplies

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Schoolyard Infographics: Children & Nature Network

    Host a Screening of the Film “Nature Play”

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Nature Explore
    Nature Explore: Learning with Nature Resources
    Natural Learning Initiative
    Earthplay
    Natural Playgrounds: Links to Natural Play Resources
    Let the Children Play
    Nature Playscapes: Bringing the Wild Back to the Child
    AHS National Children and Youth Garden Symposium
    U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Schoolyard Habitat Guide
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Outdoor Classrooms, Labs & Habitats

    Studies have shown that integrating the curricula with hands-on learning opportunities creates top-performing students.  Outdoor classrooms and living laboratories are the perfect forum to provide teaching and learning opportunities across many academic disciplines.  From the simplest outdoor seating structure to multi-faceted schoolyard habitats, gardens, restoration areas, outdoor labs, weather stations and more, there are endless possibilities to create (and keep creating!) outdoor settings that are functional for teachers and engaging for students. 

    Tip: Be sure to also visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you to continue to improve the health and sustainability of your school indoors and out!

    Before You Start

    Form an Action Team

    Overview: Project Planning Basics

    Why Naturalize Outdoor Learning Environments?

    Time Out: Using the Outdoors to Enhance Classroom Performance

    Outdoor Classroom Users Guide (Boston Schoolyard Initiative)

    Nature Play & Learning in Early Childhood: Tips & Resources

    Design and Preparation

    Conduct a School-Wide Healthy Living Audit

    Conduct a Schoolyard Habitat Audit

    Conduct a School Grounds Site Assessment

    Consider Design Options:

  • Schoolyard Design Guide (Boston Schoolyard Initiative)
  • Outdoor Classroom Design Guide (Boston Schoolyard Initiative)
  • Planning, Constructing & Using School Courtyards*
  • Affordable Settings & Elements: Cost Effective Ideas
  • Top 10 Activity Settings: Natural Learning Initiative
  • Create Outdoor Labs: Wildlife Habitat Projects
  • Plants in the Schoolyard
  • Install Features for Observation & Discovery
  • Pinterest: Search for Creative & Easy Outdoor Classroom Ideas
  • Also See: Resources Section (products, project photos, etc.)

    Project Design & Preparation Basics

    Implementation

    Create a Healthy Living Action Plan

    Create a Schoolyard Habitat Action Plan

    Project Implementation Basics

    Accessibility

    The Green Desk: Dynamic Question & Answer Resource

    Maintenance

    Project Maintenance Basics

    Using Your Project

    Overview: Using Your Project

    Acorn Naturalists: Science, STEM & Environmental Education Supplies

    Fostering Outdoor Observation Skills-Citizen Science K-8 (AFWA)

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Schoolyard Infographics: Children & Nature Network

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Nature Explore
    Nature Explore: Learning with Nature Resources
    Natural Learning Initiative
    Earthplay
    AHS National Children and Youth Garden Symposium
    U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Schoolyard Habitat Guide
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    National & State Green School Programs
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Encourage Physical Fitness & Outdoor Time

    The average American child spends 44 hours per week (more than 6 hours a day) staring at an electronic screen. Research shows that children are spending half as much time outside as they did 20 years ago. Young people between the ages of 10 to 16 engage in vigorous activity, on average, for only 12.6 minutes per day — nowhere near the 60 minutes that the Surgeon General recommends. Obesity among children aged 6 to 11 has more than doubled in the past 20 years and the rate of clinically obese adolescents (aged 12-19) has more than tripled.

    With even minor changes to a student’s daily routine, these statistics could be shifted into reverse. Even just one hour a day of moderate physical activity can have a significant positive impact on children’s physical, mental and emotional health.  In addition to boosting physical health, activity and exposure to natural settings has been found to be effective in reducing attention deficit symptoms in children. Test scores have been shown to be better in schools that offer environment-based programs compared to schools without such programs and opportunities for free play support children’s emotional and social development.  Learn about ways to incorporate physical activity and outdoor time into the school day below. (Also visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you improve the health and sustainability of your school!)

    Before You Start

    Form an Action Team

    Review Physical Activity Guidelines Ages Birth-Age 12

    Design and Preparation

    Conduct a General Environmental Review Checklist

    Conduct a Healthy Living Audit

    Implementation

    Healthy Living Action Plan (review programs below & develop an action plan)

  • 10 Ideas for Getting Students Active Inside & Outside
  • 5 Tips to Make Recess a Part of Every Student's School Day
  • Include goals for physical activity in your School Wellness Policy
  • Physical Literacy U.S. (PLUS) Programs
  • Jump Ropes for Heart & Hoops for Heart Programs
  • Implement the Presidential Youth Fitness Program
  • NFL Play 60 Challenge Program & Curriculum
  • Tools to Incorporate Activity into the School Day
  • Funding Opportunities for Physical Fitness & Outdoor Time
  • Also See: Outdoor Learning & Discovery Projects
  • Also See: Programs to Encourage Active Transportation
  • Using Your Project

    Physical Literacy U.S. Curriculum (PreK-Middle)

    Shape America Curriculum K-12 & Professional Development

    Health & Physical Education Teacher's Toolbox

    Presidential Youth Fitness Program Teacher Tools & Resources

    Eco-School Healthy Living Pathway Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    EPA MyEnvironment: Search Tool of Environmental Data by Zipcode

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    National & State Green School Programs
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Safe Drinking Water in Schools

    The EPA estimates that approximately 8,000 schools and child care facilities are regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), but there are approximately 98,000 public schools and 500,000 childcare facilities not regulated under the SDWA. These unregulated facilities may or may not be conducting voluntary drinking water quality testing.

    The Problem: Most lead gets into water after it leaves the local well or treatment plant and comes into contact with plumbing materials containing lead. Drinking water can be unsafe if there are high levels of lead and copper. Children are especially susceptible because their bodies absorb these metals at higher rates than the average adult. Children younger than six are most at risk due to their rapid rate of growth. Exposure to high levels of lead can cause damage to the brain, red blood cells, and kidneys. Exposure to even low levels of lead can cause low IQ, hearing impairment, reduced attention span, and poor classroom performance. In adults, exposure to high levels of copper can cause stomach and intestinal distress, liver or kidney damage, and complications of Wilson’s disease in genetically predisposed people.

    What You Can Do: Even with proper maintenance that meets EPA standards, lead may still get into water. Testing is the best way to know if there are elevated lead levels in a school’s drinking water. EPA has developed the 3Ts Toolkit for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water in Schools to assist schools with programs to ensure safe drinking water: Training school officials; Testing drinking water in schools; Telling students, parents, staff, and the larger community about monitoring programs, potential risks, the results of testing, and remediation actions. A link to this toolkit is provided below, along with information on protecting source water, and resources for students and educators.  (Also be sure to visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you to continue to improve the health and sustainability of your school!)

    Before You Start

    Form an Action Team

    Quick Review: Sensible Steps to Healthier Schools: Drinking Water

    Implementation

    EPA's 3Ts System to Reduce Lead in Drinking Water in Schools

    Find Lead Free Plumbing Products for Schools

    What You Can Do to Protect Source Water

    Using Your Project

    EPA Healthy Water Inside Lesson (Ages 9-13)

    Grades 4-8: EPA Drinking Water Lessons & Activities

    Grades 9-12: EPA Drinking Water Lessons & Activities

    Grades K-12: EPA Drinking & Groundwater Lessons & Activities

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    EPA MyEnvironment: Search Tool of Environmental Data by Zipcode

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    National & State Green School Programs
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    School Water Conservation Strategies

    With the ease of turning a faucet, you may not often think about water conservation in your daily life. But did you know that forty out of fifty state water managers expect water shortages under average conditions in some portion of their states over the next decade? The numbers are staggering:  The average person uses between 80-100 gallons of water each day. Just flushing a toilet uses 1 to 4 gallons per flush. Watering a lawn can use 2 gallons per minute. Just one dripping faucet can waste up to 2,000 gallons of water a year. 

    The largest uses of water in schools are restrooms, landscaping, heating & cooling, and cafeteria kitchens. Industry estimates suggest that implementing water-efficient practices can decrease operating costs by approximately 11% and energy and water use by 10-15%. Many water efficiency measures are easily implemented and of little or no upfront cost to the school, resulting in substantial savings (typically a 25‐75% reduction of municipal water use).  Learn more below about water conservation strategies for both indoor and outdoor water use. (Also be sure to visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you to continue to improve the health and sustainability of your school!)

    Before You Start

    Form an Action Team

    Center for Green Schools: Water Management Video (9mins)

    Center for Green Schools: Water Management Companion Guide

    Review: EPA WaterSense Education Facilities Fact Sheet

    Design and Preparation

    Conduct a General Environmental Review Checklist

    Assess Your School’s Water Usage

    Implementation

    Choose Water Conservation Strategies

    Develop a Water Conservation Action Plan

    Signage: Share Your School Greening Efforts!

    Using Your Project

    EPA WaterSense for Kids Lessons

    Participate in the Sustainable Water Challenge

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    EPA MyEnvironment: Search Tool of Environmental Data by Zipcode

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    National & State Green School Programs
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Programs to Reduce Vehicle Idling

    Idling vehicles waste fuel and emit air pollutants that can cause serious health effects. Buses and parents’ vehicles idling during school drop-off and pick-up can produce concentrated exhaust emissions not only outside school buildings, but also inside: Exhaust can be pulled into a school through the air intakes of the building’s ventilation system where it can accumulate and cause serious health issues for staff and students.  Diesel exhaust from aging school buses has a negative impact on human health, especially for children who have a faster breathing rate than adults and whose lungs are not yet fully developed.  While new buses must meet EPA’s tougher emission standards, many older school buses continue to emit harmful diesel exhaust that produces hazardous pollutants and significant levels of particulate matter that can cause lung damage and aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma.

    Taking action to address car and bus idling can positively impact air quality and the health of students and staff as well as reduce fuel costs, energy costs and unnecessary engine wear. Learn more about how to implement healthier transportation policies like establishing “Idle-Free Zones”, locating passenger pickup and drop off areas away from a school’s air intake supply and classroom windows, starting a carpooling program and encouraging active transportation like walking and biking. (Also be sure to visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you to continue to improve the health and sustainability of your school!)

    Before You Start

    Form an Action Team

    Center for Green Schools: Transportation Video (8mins)

    Center for Green Schools: Transportation Companion Guide

    Design and Preparation

    Conduct a General Environmental Review Checklist

    Conduct a Transportation Audit

    Sample Commute Survey for Staff & Faculty

    Extra Credit: Track the number of vehicles and time spent idling

    Implementation

    Transportation Action Plan (review program options & develop an action plan)

    Implement an Idle Reduction Campaign

    EPA Idle-Free Schools Toolkit

    Airwatch NW Idle Reduction Toolkit

    Organize Carpools, Bikepools & Walkpools: www.carpooltoschool.com

    Biodiesel: Start a district-wide campaign to use it in school buses

    See Also: Walking, Biking & Safe Routes to School

    Using Your Project

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    EPA MyEnvironment: Search Tool of Environmental Data by Zipcode

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    National & State Green School Programs
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Encourage Active Transportation:
    Walking, Biking & Safe Routes to School

    Simply getting kids to and from school these days can be an expensive, polluting and frustrating endeavor.  In 1969, approximately 50% of children walked or biked to school. Today, the U.S. spends over $21.5 billion per year on school bus transportation and 10-14% of morning traffic is generated by parents driving children to school. Returning to 1969 levels of walking and biking to school would save 3.2 billion vehicle miles, 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide and 89,000 tons of other pollutants - equal to keeping more than 250,000 cars off the road for a year - not to mention the positive impact it would have on children’s health.

    Approximately 25 million children and adolescents - more than 33% - are now overweight or at risk of becoming so. Walking is one of the simplest, most effective and affordable strategies for kids and adults to build physical activity into their lives: One mile of walking translates to 2/3 of the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Studies also show links between physical activity and academic achievement. Utilizing safe routes to school can also help reduce traffic, lower pollutants and improve the school district’s bottom line by saving money on transportation.  Learn more about creating safe routes to and from school, and developing incentives for students, staff and parents to think twice before jumping in that vehicle! (Also be sure to visit our National & State Green School Programs page to learn more about local and national Green School programs and resources to help you to continue to improve the health and sustainability of your school!)

    Before You Start

    Form an Action Team

    Review the “6 E’s” of Safe Routes to School

    Center for Green Schools: Transportation Video (8mins)

    Center for Green Schools: Transportation Companion Guide

    Design and Preparation

    Conduct a General Environmental Review Checklist

    Conduct a Transportation Audit

    Sample Commute Survey for Staff & Faculty

    Walkability Checklist: Determine Community Walkability

    Bikeability Checklist: Determine Community Bikeability

    Implementation

    Transportation Action Plan (review program options & develop an action plan)

  • Build a Task Force to Address City/County Route Changes
  • Host a Month-Long "Fire Up Your Feet" Challenge
  • Host a Walk / Bike to School Day (A “Walk & Roll” Day)
  • Organize a Golden Boot Challenge
  • Organize a Walking School Bus
  • Organize a Bike Train
  • Start an I Ride Green Program
  • Learn More: Safe Routes to School Partnership
  • Using Your Project

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Green Education Foundation: Sustainability Lesson Clearinghouse

    Learning Lab Sustainability Lessons

    EPA MyEnvironment: Search Tool of Environmental Data by Zipcode

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Projects

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    National & State Green School Programs
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Install Features & Habitats for Wildlife

    The Chesapeake Bay watershed supports an incredible diversity of wildlife, yet, wild animals face increasing pressure as natural areas that traditionally supported diverse habitats are reduced or threatened by human actions and expanding development. You can help by creating sustainable habitat projects that attract and support wildlife in your schoolyard, backyard and community! Explore projects below that provide instructions on creating habitat features for everything from birds, bees and butterflies to amphibians and furry friends!  Also visit our More Habitat Project How-To’s page that lists excellent resources for your state with instructions for building, installing and maintaining hundreds of species-specific projects!

    Before You Start

    Overview: Project Planning Basics

    Design and Preparation

    Overview: School Grounds Site Assessment

    Schoolyard Wildlife & Habitat Survey

    Field Notes for Completing a Schoolyard Wildlife & Habitat Survey

    Implementation

    Attracting Butterflies, Bees & Other Pollinators

    Bird Projects

    Brush Pile Shelters

    Frog Projects

    Gardening for Wildlife

    Low Mow / No Mow Zones

    Nesting Boxes & Structures: Birds & Bats

    Snags & Logs

    Toad Projects

    Water for Wildlife: Ponds, Amphibian Pools & More!

    Wildlife Problem-Solving

    More Habitat Project How-To’s: Excellent State-Specific Resources

    Maintenance

    Overview: Project Maintenance Basics

    Using Your Project

    Overview: Using Your Project

    Eco Schools Schoolyard Habitat Sustainability Pathway

    Monitor for Change

    Bay Backpack: Bay Animals Lesson & Activities

    Youth Garden Clubs, Programs & Resources

    Project WILD (K-12)

    Project WILD: Growing Up WILD (Ages 3-7)

    Fostering Outdoor Observation Skills-Citizen Science K-8 (AFWA)

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    National & State Green School Programs
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Plan a School Wetlands Project

    Wetlands play a critical role providing habitat for a diversity of wildlife and improving the health of local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay.  Wetlands act as sponges, soaking up stormwater and trapping polluted runoff. The subsequent gradual release of water minimizes erosion and slows the flow of stormwater into rivers, streams and the Bay. Wetland plants filter and absorb nutrients, sediment and chemical contaminants before these pollutants can flow to nearby waterways. Wetlands are especially important in our cities, towns and suburbs, where development and impervious surfaces drastically increase the rate and volume of polluted stormwater runoff.

    Unfortunately, over the past 50 years, the Chesapeake Bay watershed has lost at least 50% of its wetlands to development, sea level rise and invasive species. Creating, restoring and protecting wetlands is key to clean water, healthy habitats and a restored Bay. A school wetland (there are many sizes and types to choose from) can also provide a fascinating outdoor laboratory for instruction across many disciplines.

    Before You Start

    Overview: Project Planning Basics

    Overview: School Grounds Site Assessment

    Assess Your Site for a Wetland Project

    Design and Preparation

    Overview: Project Design Basics

    Wetland Design Considerations

    POW! The Planning of Wetlands

    Chesapeake Region Native Plants

    Implementation

    Overview: Project Implementation Basics

    Wetland Implementation Considerations

    Bench and Platform Sample Designs

    Maintenance

    Overview: Project Maintenance Basics

    Wetland Maintenance Considerations

    Typical Constructed Wetland Maintenance (CBLP Sustainable Landscape Manual)

    Using Your Project

    Overview: Using Your Project

    Eco Schools WOW-Wetlands Sustainability Pathway

    Bay Backpack: Wetland Lessons & Activities

    POW! The Planning of Wetlands

    WOW! The Wonder of Wetlands

    Project WET: Water Education for Teachers

    Monitor for Change

    Project WILD: Aquatic

    Fostering Outdoor Observation Skills-Citizen Science K-8 (AFWA)

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    National & State Green School Programs
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Identify & Manage Invasive Species

    Many natural ecosystems are being increasingly degraded by non-native plants and animals introduced from other parts of the world. Some of these introduced species are invasive, meaning they do not have any natural controls and spread rapidly. Global trade, human activities, recreation, and climate change are helping invasive species spread at accelerated rates.

    Not All Green is Good: Have you seen trees wrapped in ivy vines? Towering stands of bamboo? White honeysuckle flowers springing into bloom? Invasive plants smother and compete with native vegetation, and ecosystems with invasive and exotic plants have significantly less wildlife and plant diversity than unaffected systems. Over 3400 species of alien plants have invaded 100 million acres of the U.S, and that area is expected to double in the next few years. You can help! Learn how to identify invasive plants so you can avoid planting them, and make an effective plan for invasive plant removal, management and replacement with native plants!

    Pests Without Leaves:  Invasive species are not just limited to plants. Insects like the Emerald Ash Borer, the Asian Long-Horned Beetle and the European Gypsy Moth are responsible for the destruction of millions of trees.  In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, nearly 200 invasive aquatic species have been recorded, including several species of fish, shellfish, mammals, birds and more. Learn how to identify invasive insects and other “pest” animal species and what to do next! Sometimes it’s as easy as learning to recognize a pest and knowing where to report the sighting to prevent its spread!

    Before You Start

    Overview: Project Planning Basics

    Overview: School Grounds Site Assessment

    Design and Preparation

    Identify Invasive Plant & Animal Species

    Implementation

    Remove, Control & Replaces Invasive Plants

    Wildlife Problem-Solving

    Report Invasive Species

    Check Invasive Species Laws in Your State (and contact legislators!)

    Make Native / Invasive Plant Protest Cards (Model)

    Maintenance

    Overview: Project Maintenance Basics

    (Also See Implementation Resources Above)

    Using Your Project

    iMapInvasives Tools

    Smart Phone Apps to Monitor, Track & Report Invasive Species (USDA)

    Bay Backpack: Invasive Species Lessons & Activities

    Plant the Cleared Area with Native Plants

    Incorporate Outdoor Learning & Discovery Projects in the Cleared Area

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    National & State Green School Programs
    Mid-Atlantic Invasive Species Council
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Monitor Water Quality & Wildlife

    More than 100,000 streams, creeks, and rivers thread through the Chesapeake Bay watershed sending about 51 billion gallons of fresh water into the Bay each day! Unfortunately, due to agricultural & urban stormwater runoff, erosion and wastewater overflow, excess nutrients, sediment, litter and chemical contaminants often tag along for the ride. Excess nutrients fuel the growth of harmful algae blooms that block sunlight from reaching underwater grasses and lead to low-oxygen dead zones that suffocate marine life. Suspended sediment blocks sunlight from reaching underwater grasses, smothers oysters and other bottom-dwelling species, and clogs ports and channels. Litter and chemical contaminants like pesticides pose serious health risks to both humans and wildlife. Take action!

    Monitor Wildlife:  Creeks and streams provide vital habitat for many aquatic species, including anadromous fish species like shad & sturgeon (that spend their adult lives in the ocean but migrate into freshwater rivers and streams to spawn), turtles & amphibians, aquatic insects, mammals, birds and important plants & grasses.  Diverse communities of benthic organisms like clams, crustaceans, insect larvae & worms found on the bottom of rivers and streams form an important link in the food web, and act as an indicator of watershed health.

    Monitor Water Quality:  Monitoring data can reveal changes in pollution levels and trends over time that provide valuable knowledge to policy makers and conservationists and improve our understanding of the Bay and its tributaries.  Collecting and sharing water quality data strengthens Bay-wide efforts to provide the most accurate and reliable representations of Bay water quality.

    Conduct Projects to Improve Water Quality:  Don’t stop at monitoring – take action! Conduct a stream clean-up! Install rain barrels, rain gardens, green roofs and more to slow and filter stormwater! Plant a forest buffer next to a stream! Learn more about monitoring projects below and about projects to improve water quality on our Clean Water Projects page!

    Before You Start

    Overview: Project Planning Basics

    Find a Local Waterway:

  • Field Scope (switch the basemap to topo)
  • Model My Watershed
  • EPA Surf Your Watershed
  • Design and Preparation

    Find Local Monitoring Opportunities

    Implementation

    Save Our Streams Data Monitoring Forms

    USGS Streamflow, Hydrographs & Water Data

    Identify Stream Wildlife, Plants & Macroinvertebrates

    Plan a Stream or River Clean-Up Event

    Clean Water Projects to Restore & Protect Your Stream

    Using Your Project

    Bay Backpack: Rivers and Streams Lessons & Activities

    Bay Backpack: Water Monitoring Lessons & Activities

    Bay Backpack: Land Use Lessons & Activities

    Project WILD: Aquatic

    Project WET: Water Education for Teachers

    Fostering Outdoor Observation Skills-Citizen Science K-8 (AFWA)

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    National & State Green School Programs
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Plan a Stream or River Clean-Up Event

    There are more than 100,000 miles of streams and creeks in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. These tributaries send fresh water into the Bay and provide vital habitat to aquatic plants and animals. They also provide people with public access points where they can fish, boat, swim, observe wildlife, and reconnect with the watershed.  Building personal connections with the environment can benefit public health and conservation efforts. But what happens when that stream or river is cluttered with litter?

    The accumulation of litter is perhaps the most visible threat to waterways. Aquatic litter and debris includes plastic bags, cigarette butts, beverage bottles and other waste that enters the marine environment. Sometimes, this waste is thrown onto a street or into a waterway on purpose; other times, it enters the environment accidentally. In urban and suburban areas, waste that is on a street or sidewalk can be pushed into storm drains, rivers and streams when it rains. Aquatic litter can detract from an area’s beauty, smother grass beds and bottom-dwelling organisms, add chemical contaminants to the water, or be ingested by animals. Learn how to locate your local waterways and organize a Clean-Up Day!

    Before You Start

    Overview: Project Planning Basics

    Find a Local Waterway:

  • FieldScope (switch the basemap to “topo”)
  • Model My Watershed
  • EPA Surf Your Watershed
  • Implementation

    Register & Organize a Clean-Up: Project Clean Stream

    Organize a Stream Clean-Up (Video): Chesapeake Bay Foundation

    Stream Clean-Up Downloadable Handbook: Chesapeake Bay Foundation

    Plant a Forest Buffer

    Using Your Project

    Bay Backpack: Rivers and Streams Lessons & Activities

    Monitor Water Quality & Wildlife

    Clean Water Projects to Restore & Protect Your Stream

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Register Your Clean-Up Event

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    National & State Green School Programs
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Chesapeake Region Native Plants

    Native plants have grown in our region for hundreds of years or more. They are well adapted to our soil and climate, and have developed natural defenses to withstand many types of insects and diseases. By selecting native plants that suit local conditions, you can reduce or eliminate the need for fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and watering, which in turn reduces pollution flowing into local waterways and the Bay.

    Native plants also provide the best source of food for bees, birds, butterflies and other wildlife! Did you know that exotic ornamental plants support 29 times less biodiversity than native plants? With few exceptions, only insect species that have shared a long evolutionary history with a particular plant lineage have developed the physiological adaptations required to use those plants. When presented with ornamental plants that evolved on another continent, chances are local insects will be unable to utilize them. So many animals depend on insects for food (including 96% of all terrestrial birds) that the loss of insects from an ecosystem spells its doom. Learn more about how to choose native plants that match your project goals and site conditions and where to purchase these plants (and seeds) locally!

    Before You Start

    Overview: Project Planning Basics

    Overview: School Grounds Site Assessment

    Eight Essential Elements of Conservation Landscaping

    Design and Preparation

    Overview: Project Design Basics

    Online Yard Design Tool: Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay

    Choosing Native Plants

    Implementation

    Overview: Project Implementation Basics

    Where to Buy Native Plants

    Check Invasive Species Laws in Your State (and contact legislators!)

    Make Native / Invasive Plant Protest Cards (Model)

    Plants in the Schoolyard

    Maintenance

    Overview: Project Maintenance Basics

    Identify & Manage Invasive Species

    Using Your Project

    Overview: Using Your Project

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    National & State Green School Programs
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Install Rain Barrels

    A rain barrel is a system that collects and stores a portion of the rainwater that runs out of a downspout or off of a roof, keeping this runoff out of rivers and streams. A rain barrel allows for the slow release of rainwater into the ground (or collects it for later use). This simple system prevents the rapid flow of stormwater across the ground and into storm drains which often overwhelms the stormwater system. By diverting water from storm drains, the impact of runoff into streams and the Chesapeake Bay is greatly decreased which can have a significant impact on water quality. While the collected water is unsafe for drinking, it can be used for non-potable purposes like watering plants or washing cars. On average, rain barrel owners can save over 1,300 gallons of water each summer!

    Follow the instructions below to build your own rain barrels or purchase a ready-made rain barrel from a hardware stores, garden center or local governments. Consider a rain garden as well. Often spots that work for a rain barrel are also good locations for a rain garden project!

    Before You Start

    Overview: Project Planning Basics

    Overview: School Ground Site Assessment

    Design and Preparation

    Tools and Materials

    Decorate Your Barrel

    Implementation

    Rain Barrel Installation Instructions

    Watch a Chesapeake Bay Program Rain Barrel Installation Video

    Maintenance

    Rain Barrel Maintenance Tips

    Using Your Project

    Tips for Using Your Rain Barrel

    Water Quality: Lessons and Activities

    Water Quality Monitoring: Lessons & Opportunities

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    National & State Green School Programs
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Create a Rain Garden

    Installing rain gardens can help prevent local flooding and water pollution while creating valuable plant and wildlife habitat in the process! A rain garden works by collecting stormwater runoff from a roof, driveway, or parking lot that would otherwise flow to the street or storm drain. The water temporarily ponds on the surface of the garden and then slowly filters through the soil. The garden is planted with a mix of hearty native plants that can withstand brief periods of standing water yet be able to tolerate extended periods of dryness. These plants filter out pollutants and support wildlife. Often spots that may work for a rain garden are also good locations for a rain barrel project!

    Before You Start

    Overview: Project Planning Basics

    Overview: School Grounds Site Assessment

    Test Your Soil to See if a Rain Garden Will Work

    Design and Preparation

    Overview: Project Design Basics

    Estimate Roof Top Area & Surface Area

    Mark the Area & Check Utilities

    Calculate Excess Fill, Sand, Mulch, Stone

    Gather Needed Tools

    Watch Rain Garden “How-To” Videos!

    Implementation

    Overview: Project Implementation Basics

    12 Steps of Rain Garden Construction

    Planting Your Rain Garden:

  • Design Considerations
  • Sample Planting Plans
  • Chesapeake Region Native Plants
  • Watch Rain Garden “How-To” Videos!

    Download a Free Rain Garden “How To” App!

    Maintenance

    Overview: Project Maintenance Basics

    Rain Garden Upkeep Over Time

    Troubleshooting!

    Using Your Project

    Overview: Using Your Project

    Water Quality: Lessons & Activities

    Water Quality Monitoring: Lessons & Opportunities

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    National & State Green School Programs
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Plant a Meadow

    Known for their striking colors and textures, meadows are grassland habitats that include a mix of wild grasses and wildflowers. Meadow grasses provide structural support with their dense, thick stems, and their fibrous root systems provide significant erosion control. Meadows also provide important habitat and food sources for many species of wildlife.

    Love Wildlife? Plant a Meadow.  Meadows support an impressive variety of wildlife. Tall grasses and wildflowers provide dense cover for ground-nesting birds and burrowing animals which attract predators including foxes, hawks and owls. Flowers provide important food sources with their blooms, leaves and seeds that support a vast variety of insects. Birds feed on these insects as well as highly nutritious seeds produced by meadow plants. Some plant species provide for a larger variety of insects than others, so choose wisely.

    Take Action!  Despite their undeniable value, meadows continue to be replaced by crops, pastures and development. Consequently, erosion and runoff has increased and many wildlife species that depend on grasslands are disappearing. Meadow projects are an excellent way to increase valuable native habitat and help restore plant and animal populations.

    Before You Start

    Overview: Project Planning Basics

    Overview: School Grounds Site Assessment

    Design and Preparation

    Overview: Project Design Basics

    Meadow Design Considerations (incl. seeds & plants)

    Implementation

    Overview: Project Implementation Basics

    Meadow Site Preparation

    Meadow Seeding Technique

    Maintenance

    Overview: Project Maintenance Basics

    Meadow Maintenance

    Using Your Project

    Overview: Using Your Project

    Eco Schools Schoolyard Habitat Sustainability Pathway

    Monitor for Change

    Bay Backpack: Bay Animals Lesson & Activities

    Project WILD (K-12)

    Project WILD: Growing Up WILD (Ages 3-7)

    Fostering Outdoor Observation Skills-Citizen Science K-8 (AFWA)

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    National & State Green School Programs
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Plant a Forest Buffer

    Forest buffers (also called riparian buffers) are the trees, shrubs and other plants that grow next to streams and rivers, and are critical to the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

    Clean water: Streamside trees & shrubs slow the flow of stormwater runoff, trapping sediment and allowing polluted water to soak into the forest floor’s sponge-like soil. Plant roots absorb nutrient pollution and store it in leaves & limbs. Deep root systems hold soil in place, stabilizing stream banks and reducing the amount of sediment that can wash into waterways. Buffers also protect those on land from rising floodwaters by deflecting heavy river flow during major storms.

    Food, habitat & protection for wildlife:  The trees, shrubs & other plants of forest buffers form layers of diverse habitats that native wildlife depends on for food, shelter and access to water. Forest buffers offer safe wildlife migration paths, creating forest “corridors”. Leaf litter, seeds & other plant materials dropped into the water form the foundation of the freshwater food chain, and fallen woody debris creates underwater habitat and provides food, shelter and spawning grounds for insects, amphibians, crustaceans & small filter feeders and fish. In summer, leafy canopies shade rivers and streams, keeping water temperatures cool and consistent. Without it, water temperatures would rise rapidly, fueling the growth of harmful algae blooms and stressing sensitive species. Cooler water also holds more oxygen, which aquatic species need to survive.

    Take Action! Because forest buffers can drastically improve the health of local rivers & streams, buffer restoration is a critical part of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. Currently, an estimated 58% of the watershed’s 288,000 miles of stream banks and shorelines have forest buffers, but scientists have found that rivers and streams are not protected until 70% of their edges are buffered!

    Important! If you are conducting development activities or altering vegetation (including removing invasive plants) in a Critical Area Buffer Zone (area of vegetation of at least 100 feet, measured landward from the mean high water line of tidal waters, tributary streams and tidal wetlands), you must work with your local government to develop a Buffer Management Plan.

    Before You Start

    Overview: Project Planning Basics

    Overview: School Grounds Site Assessment

  • i-Tree Analysis Tools for Assessing & Managing Community Forests
  • Forests for the Bay Landserver Property Mapping Tool
  • Design and Preparation

    Overview: Project Design & Preparation Basics

    Trees & Shrubs: Choosing, Sourcing & Determining Numbers

    Buffer Design Templates

    Implementation

    Trees & Shrubs: Site Prep, Planting Instructions

    Overview: Project Implementation Basics

    Maintenance

    Overview: Project Maintenance Basics

    Tree & Shrub Maintenance Tips

    Identifying & Managing Threats to Woodlands

    Using Your Project

    Overview: Using Your Project

    Eco Schools LEAF Forest Sustainability Pathway

    Eco-Schools WOW-Watershed Sustainability Pathway

    Forests for the Bay (Scroll to Educator Resources)

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    National & State Green School Programs
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Improve & Maintain Your Woods

    Do you have trees on or adjacent to your school grounds? Being able to understand and evaluate existing woodlands is the first step to determining what projects may potentially improve or enhance them. Visit the links below to learn to identify your trees and potential threats to them, and projects that can support woodland wildlife, provide educational and recreational opportunities for students and teachers, and help your trees survive and thrive!

    Before You Start

    Overview: Project Planning Basics

    Overview: School Grounds Site Assessment

  • i-Tree Analysis Tools for Assessing & Managing Community Forests
  • Forests for the Bay Landserver Property Mapping Tool
  • Implementation

    Understanding Your Woods: Evaluation and Plant Identification

    Identifying & Managing Threats to Woodlands

    Beneath the Trees: Adding Other Woodland Plants

    Features to Attract & Support Wildlife

    Maintenance

    Overview: Project Maintenance Basics

    Using Your Project

    Overview: Using Your Project

    Monitor for Change

    Bay Backpack: Bay Animals Lesson & Activities

    Project WILD (K-12)

    Project WILD: Growing Up WILD (Ages 3-7)

    Fostering Outdoor Observation Skills-Citizen Science K-8 (AFWA)

    Forests for the Bay (Scroll to Educator Resources)

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Eco Schools LEAF Forest Sustainability Pathway

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    National & State Green School Programs
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Beneath the Trees:
    Adding Other Woodland Plants

    Forests contain a diversity of plant types arranged in vertical layers, from the tallest canopy trees through the understory of shorter trees and shrubs, to the forest floor or ground layer of low shrubs and herbaceous plants. Forest types are classified by the dominant trees present (e.g., oak-hickory-pine forest). Many combinations of plants occur in these different forests; remember to match the plants’ growth requirements with site conditions. Select plants that prefer a shadier, drier climate; Plants under a tree canopy will get significantly less rain (however, remember for new projects it may take years for young canopy trees to provide adequate shade).  Native ferns and woodland groundcovers are good choices for established woodlands; native woodland wildflowers also work as they evolved to bloom early in the spring before the deciduous tree leaf canopy has developed for the season. It’s best to plant small plants (e.g., 4-inch pots rather than gallon containers) so you can dig a smaller hole and avoid root damage.  Do NOT create a raised bed or planter box around a tree! Doing so can trap the roots so deep that they aren’t able to reach air, or seal moisture against the bark which can harbor insects or cause rot. Follow the simple tips below to establish your own woodland wonderland beneath the trees!

    Before You Start

    Overview: Project Planning Basics

    Measure Project Area & Assess Growing Conditions

    Assess Soil Infiltration

    Assess Soil Texture

    Design and Preparation

    STEP 1: Choose Your Plants

  • Chesapeake Region Native Plants
  • Chesapeake Region Native Plants for Forest or Woodland Plantings
  • Forests for the Bay: Understory Plants for Riparian Forest Buffers
  • Your Plant Chart
  • STEP 2: Calculating Numbers & Developing a Planting Map

  • Overview: Calculating Plant Numbers & Creating a Planting Map
  • Field Notes for Creating a Planting Map
  • Examples of Planting Maps
  • Implementation

    STEP 1: Where to Buy Native Plants

    STEP 2: Prepare & Install Your Project!

    Maintenance

    Overview: Project Maintenance Basics

    Using Your Project

    Overview: Using Your Project

    Eco Schools LEAF Forest Sustainability Pathway

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    National & State Green School Programs
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Grow a Forest: Tree & Shrub Nursery

    In the last 100 years, the Chesapeake Bay watershed has lost more than half of the extensive forests that originally covered 95 percent of the land surrounding the Bay and its tributaries. There are not nearly enough remaining woodlands to keep pace with development and an expanding population, factors that threaten to compromise the health of the Bay watershed and overwhelm the progress made to restore the Bay. It is imperative that we protect the remaining forests and restore woodlands, especially streamside forests.  What better way to achieve this than to grow your own forest with a school tree & shrub nursery!

    Before You Start

    Overview: Project Planning Basics

    Overview: School Grounds Site Assessment

  • i-Tree Analysis Tools for Assessing & Managing Community Forests
  • Forests for the Bay Landserver Property Mapping Tool
  • Design and Preparation

    Overview: Project Design & Preparation Basics

    Creating a School Tree Nursery: Basic How To's

    Implementation

    Overview: Project Implementation Basics

    Trees & Shrubs: Site Prep, Planting Instructions

    Maintenance

    Tree & Shrub Maintenance Tips

    Overview: Project Maintenance Basics

    Using Your Project

    Overview: Using Your Project

    Eco Schools LEAF Forest Sustainability Pathway

    Forests for the Bay (Scroll to Educator Resources)

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    National & State Green School Programs
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)

    Choose and Plant Trees & Shrubs

    One of the simplest and most valuable environmental projects is replacing lawn and planting eroding areas with locally native trees, shrubs and perennial plants. The root systems of trees and shrubs hold soil in place and slow and capture rainwater; even smaller woodlands act like sponges, absorbing pollutants and filtering runoff before it reaches rivers, streams and drinking water. Trees produce oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide and pollutants and improve air quality, and can provide significant energy savings when strategically planted.  The structure, leaves, flowers, seeds, berries and other fruits of trees and shrubs provide food, shelter, nesting sites and safe migration paths for a variety of wildlife.  Anyone can plant a tree or shrub, but it’s important to plant it correctly! Proper planning and planting is critical to the success of your project! Follow the tips and instructions below to learn how to choose native trees and shrubs that match your site conditions and goals, how to prepare your site, and instructions on planting.

    Before You Start

    Overview: Project Planning Basics

    Overview: School Grounds Site Assessment

  • i-Tree Analysis Tools for Assessing & Managing Community Forests
  • Forests for the Bay Landserver Property Mapping Tool
  • Design and Preparation

    Overview: Project Design Basics

    Trees & Shrubs: Choosing, Sourcing & Determining Numbers

    Implementation

    Overview: Project Implementation Basics

    Site Preparation & Planting Instructions

    Maintenance

    Tree & Shrub Maintenance Tips

    Overview: Project Maintenance Basics

    Using Your Project

    Overview: Using Your Project

    Eco Schools LEAF Forest Sustainability Pathway

    Eco-School Sustainability Pathways Lessons & Resources

    Eco School National Standards & Curriculum Alignment

    Project Learning Tree Curriculum Offerings

    Eco Schools Green STEM Initiative

    Sharing Your Project

    Overview: Sharing Your Project

    Resource Center

    Project Resource Library: Learn More!
    Eco Schools USA Handbook
    National & State Green School Programs
    Bay Backpack Teaching Resources Search Engine
    EPA Learning & Teaching About the Environment (awards, resources, more)