Sustainable Materials Management: Schools
This fact sheet identifies some environmental stewardship policies and practices used in schools abroad to promote resource conservation and reuse, as well as safe chemicals management concepts to help prevent waste. In the United States, innovative initiatives associated with children’s health and schools (such as those related to chemical clean-outs and the application of vendor servicing concepts) have received significant attention. This fact sheet is not comprehensive; rather, it provides a starting point for readers interested in investigating the topic.
- Resource Conservation and Reuse Initiatives - Country Examples
- Safer Chemicals Use and Disposal
- Some U.S. Activities and Additional Resources
Resource Conservation and Reuse Initiatives - Country Examples
Australia. Waste management strategies have been produced by all levels of government in Australia. The No Waste 2010 Management Strategy adopted by Australia’s Capital Territory in Canberra exemplifies programs to encourage resource conservation and reuse as alternatives to landfilling. The strategy establishes a framework for sustainable resource management and identifies actions, including school-related initiatives such as Waste Wise in Schools (an initiative distinct from US EPA’s Waste Wise Program), to achieve the goal of a waste-free society. The action-based Waste Wise in Schools initiative is co-sponsored by governments across Australia and non-profit organizations including the Gould Group and EcoRecycle Victoria. To help reduce waste and costs, and develop a "waste-wise" ethic in schools, it provides a best practices guide and teacher workshops and sponsors school accreditation. Waste Wise in Schools promotes waste audits and emphasizes both smart purchasing and composting practices. On the Gold Coast of Australia, schools have adopted the Wipe out Waste Challenge to minimize waste through activities such as litter plans, waste audits, recycling programs, and composting. Since 2000, over 55,000 students have participated in Wipe Out Waste activities.
Canada. In Canada, a national Waste Reduction Week takes place annually in October. Schools are a focus of activities, and school kits have been developed to support the campaign to promote waste reduction in educational programs. Materials support the use of school waste assessments and environmental purchasing. Regional waste reduction initiatives that include schools exist across Canada.
Ireland. In Ireland, An Taisce, the country’s largest independent environmental organization, along with several private sector partners, has co-sponsored Green Schools . Green Schools is an initiative of the international Foundation for Environmental Education. Currently, over half (over 2600) Irish primary and secondary schools participate in the program. Goals of the initiative include waste minimization and energy efficiency. Each "Green school" undertakes an environmental review, develops an action plan, and evaluates its activities.
New Zealand. Like Australia, New Zealand emphasizes “active” environmental stewardship programs in schools. The Waste Wise Organic Recycling Programme provides schools with “closed loop” vermicomposting systems to reuse lunchroom and other organic wastes. The program receives support from the New Zealand Ministry’s Sustainable Management Fund. The Enviroschools Programme is sponsored by the Enviroschools Foundation. It models sustainability in all aspects of school life to reinforce environmental education and emphasizes the importance of recycling and composting.
United Kingdom. Schools Waste Action Club (SWAC) projects have been established in eight locations across England by Waste Watch, a national non-profit organization, to promote waste reduction, reuse, and recycling. SWAC resources include curriculum-based educational materials, teacher training, and planning support for schools. SWAC activities support goals of the United Kingdom’s Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) , which was created in 2001 as a not-for-profit company to promote sustainable waste management solutions in response to the UK government’s Waste Strategy 2000 and subsequent policies. WRAP encourages the development of markets for recycled wastes in schools.
Safer Chemicals Use and Disposal
Improper chemical uses or disposal may pose serious safety concerns. Laboratory chemicals, cleaning supplies, and pesticides increasingly are the focus of safety concerns in schools, in terms of product purchase, use, and disposal. Non-toxic alternatives have received more attention as a result of this awareness. For example, an Australian non-profit community network called Chemical Awareness in Schools is devoted to non-toxic alternatives to cleaning, maintenance, and pest control products used in schools.
Innovative strategies to encourage safer chemicals management in schools and other settings include vendor servicing and chemical management services (CMS). The concept of CMS originated in the U.S. automotive industry and had evolved to serve other applications –see a description of CMS strategies . These strategies, which go by different names, rely on the creation of economic efficiencies in business practices and new ways of thinking about the life cycles of toxic or hazardous substances.
- Chemical leasing (CL) is a service-oriented business model that focuses on the entire life cycle of chemical products. United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) CL demonstration and training projects have been implemented in several nations, including Russia and Mexico, to increase the efficient use of chemicals while protecting human health.
- In Austria, the Environment Ministry and major companies initiated two studies to compile and evaluate the various attempts to implement cooperative, service-oriented strategies and developed CL models for the chemicals industry in Austria .
- The potential for CMS internationally also has been studied by the European Commission and others.
Some U.S. Activities and Additional Resources
Government agencies at the federal and state levels in the United States have taken important steps to address issues associated both with resource conservation and reuse and safer chemicals management in schools. Some EPA initiatives and associated Web links are listed below.
- healthy school environments - a gateway to on-line resources on environmental health in schools, including assessment tools, for parents, teachers, school officials, and design professionals
- Schools Chemical Cleanout Campaign (SC3) - an EPA program focusing on providing chemicals management training and cleaning out excess, legacy, unused, and improperly stored chemicals from schools.
- chemical management services (CMS) - chemical Management Services (CMS) is a business model in which the customer purchases chemical services rather than just chemicals. With the assistance of EPA, CMS has been piloted for use in US schools
- schools and mercury - information on how to reduce mercury hazards, avoid chemical liabilities, develop planning tools, and establish collection programs for mercury
- integrated pest management in schools - answers to questions about IPM and related information about its uses by schools
- environmental education - resources - links by environmental topic to resources for educators and students
- green cleaning - information on practices that can reduce health, safety, and environmental risks
- state mercury school programs - information on State mercury management legislations and programs