Despite the fact that Ohio did not place in the top 20 on Forbes’ list of America’s Greenest States (we came in a dismal 39 out of 50 in 2007), or that there are no Ohio cities that made the top 50 list of greenest cities in America, according to Popular Science (2008), Ohio schools could still take the lead, since our legislators won’t, by adopting curriculum and developing policies, so that the next generation of Ohioans will have the knowledge and know-how to live green, sustainable lives.
All school districts should not only be recycling all materials, including plastic, cell phones, and ink cartridges used by the district, they could work with local waste management agencies and act as repositories for their communities as well. Student organizations could be set up to act as monitors and in some cases make money at it while completing community service hours. There are several national organizations such as Teens Turning Green, Earth Force, or Roots & Shoots that help students get organized and teach sustainable living practices.
Districts could complete energy audits and invest in green energy sources such as small solar and wind power technologies. Students could help raise the money to purchase them and study the installations and technology behind it. This would resort in smaller energy bills and hands on science experience. Ohio schools, either statewide or individually, should participate in the Wind for Schools Project sponsored by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory under the U.S Department of Energy. There are currently 11 states involved with this program. Unfortunately, Ohio is not one of them. New schools should be built according to LEED standards sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council, which supports purchasing natural, renewable products from local vendors, thus investing in local businesses.
Middle and high school teachers could request that all assignments be done through cloud computing, reducing paper and printer ink waste and developing 21st century skills. Districts should change their font styles when printing to Century Gothic. It requires less ink, saves money and less cartridges end up in landfills polluting our waterways. School field trips should be provided to our solid waste sites to fully understand what we are doing to our land in Ohio. This is being done in other states.
Perhaps, the most important thing our schools can do is to teach our students to be active in petitioning local and state governments to do more to save our environment, reduce our landfill waste, adopt green building codes and offer incentives, like bottle bills, that would entice the public to become active participants in greening up Ohio. Students should be required to attend city and township council meetings to ask our representatives the tough question, “Why aren’t you doing more?” and then be ready to respond and debate with pertinent information to inform their legislators and the public. I’m tired of being a follower of other states. I want Ohio to be a leader. Our school districts and students can make that happen.
by Susan Ridgeway, Streetsboro Education Association