Dealing with the Schools: Coping as a Green Mom

September 15th, 2008

It’s not often that I’m taken by surprise, since I tend to research issues to death. But want to know the reason there have been so few posts of late? It’s this back to school thing. I honestly thought that my life would get easier when my son started first grade at the local public school. Instead, I feel like I have another job.

Between morning melt downs, afternoon crying fits, folders stuffed full of papers to be reviewed by a responsible parental unit, and my continued Green Mom Culture Shock at the many environmentally unfriendly practices common to one of the most progressive school systems in the country – well, I’ve been exhausted!

For nearly a year now, but never more so than since the launch of the Green Moms Carnival, I’ve enjoyed the company of a like-minded sisterhood of Green Moms. These sympathetic souls include Green Moms with college-age kids– La Marguerite, Karen Hanrahan, Anna from GreenTalk and Diane MacEachern – as well as many with elementary school age kids like my Big Boy – the Not Quite Crunchy Parent, Surely You Nest, Sommer from Green and Clean Mom and even a few like me, still dealing with diapers – Alana from Gray Matters holding the honor of having the youngest baby among us.

Between the Green Moms in the blogosphere,  the Green Parents who find their way to leave wonderful comments on OrganicMania, and my growing list of wonderful green clients,  I thought that Green was everywhere.

Well, Green is not everywhere. So here I am, trying to figure which issue to address first. The mandatory plastic ziplock bags? The throw-away Styrofoam trays? The forced bussing past shuttered schools? The high fructose corn syrup laden lollypops handed out by my son’s math teacher? The cheap plastic crap toys given as rewards for good behavior? The environmentally unfriendly school fundraisers?

Hey Green Moms, how are you doing in week three of back-to-school? And have you been successful in “taking on” any of the environmentally unfriendly practices at your local schools?

And, yes, I am co-chairing the school’s Green Committee, so my question is serious. For those of you who have  been successful at  bringing  about change, what’s worked? And what hasn’t worked?

— Lynn

8 Responses to “Dealing with the Schools: Coping as a Green Mom”

  1. Sue on September 17, 2008 5:51 am

    It takes quite a bit of time, energy and dedication to get green into mainstream. I know, I’ve been working since high school on some of these issues. I’m so glad you are willing to offer your time and energy for the cause. What to work on first…you could start small where you will see the biggest rewards early on like with your sons’ teacher. Having a honest and friendly discussion with school faculty on reward systems is an easy win. For example, my school offers rewards in terms of activities only (no treats, no plastic!). Through parent involvement and encouragement, we now have a sticker chart where students earn activities such as lunch with a teacher or even horseback riding with the vice principal! It’s motivating for the kids and I love that my teachers will spend their lunch hour reading and talking with my son or daughter.

    I have to tell you that I thought of you and your blog last week as I sat in a federal meeting and was offered FAIR TRADE COFFEE in ECO FRIENDLY COFFEE CUPS.

    I wish you the best of luck as you work to reform your school and school system one child at a time.

    Sue – what great stories! Thanks for sharing. I imagine that through the Green Committee at the school, we’ll have plenty of opportunities to make progress. I love the approach your school took to rewards! — Lynn

  2. Kristen on September 17, 2008 6:04 pm

    Hi Lynn – I’ve been thinking about this issue a great deal in the past 10 days because my older child just started school.

    On the first day, the parents had an orientation and we got to meet one another and discuss the upcoming school year. Naturally the conversation turned to our basic parenting practices. When I mentioned that I don’t feed my children sugar, I got a few raised eyebrows. When I said that they don’t watch TV, at least not by design, I heard a few head snaps and another parent quickly changed the subject. At that point, I was terrified to go down the organic food path discussion.

    I have no idea where this all is going or how I’m going to handle the first round of junk food snacks or environmentally unfriendly supplies donation request. I had forgotten that I was living in a Green Bubble and frankly, it’s rather disappointing to learn that I’m in the minority, at least at my school. I hope that other readers offer some constructive ideas.

    Hi Kristen, thanks so much for sharing. I think that together we’ll come up with lots of ideas, because there are so many of us now going through this together! I know for sure I’ll be blogging lots more about this! — Lynn

  3. Expat Chef on September 19, 2008 7:04 am

    I hear you on the lollipops, been fighting the “candy as a reward” thing REPEATEDLY. Also found out yesterday that, despite packing a healthy lunch for my child EVERY day, the staff gives her seconds on HOT DOGS AND COMMERCIAL BEEF even as I have asked them not to. It ain’t easy bein’ green. You raise issues and they look at you like you are insane. I hear you!

    Hi Beth, thanks for stopping by! Yeah, I now understand why the hippies lived on communes in the ’60s. Can you imagine what it was like back then when people talked about “health food” like it was something strange? — Lynn

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  5. GGTD on October 13, 2008 3:05 pm

    I would definitely write down a list of everything that is bothering you and then pick 3 things that you think are most important to you and tackle those first. You’ll probably find that a lot of things that have a strong emotion (wasteful rewards for doing well) may not be the biggest way to make a difference.

    If you can, try to choose things that simply stand out as wrong and think about why they are currently doing it, from their perspective, not your own. If you can do that, you’ll probably make quick work of those bad practices they’re currently taking part in.

  6. Mitzy on December 20, 2008 6:56 am

    I was curious if any of your concerns have been addressed since your posting? I stumbled upon the site this morning and have not had an opportunity to read all topics. At my school (sorry if I overlap someone elses comments), we are piloting an all wide district (19 elementaries plus all of the other buildings) single stream recycling. Implemented in all buildings the recycling of paper, aluminum, plastic, metals and cardboards. We have two containers on site and the fifth graders come around and dump weekly for all classes. We have a seperate paper recycling day for that container. We also limit paper required communication. Most communication is done via e-mail. Our curriulum is on CD’s. We allow for no extrinisic rewards (especially candy since it does not meet DESE health standards) and we have a different philosophy with fundraisers. Instead of having a pizza pary for meeting a special goal, we set a goal and if it was met, we would adopt a monkey at the local zoo for a year (jungle was the fundraiser theme). We do not advertise spirit days for a dollar donation, donating should be natural and encouraged without an extrinisic reward. We have Club Hope, where the Humane Society comes by monthly and teaches various lessons. We have various service learning projects. In class meetings, my class is discussing starting vermicomposting (we are in the research phase). The worm castings would be used in our Hope Garden. I have worked in other districts where these opportunties were not considered, but aren’t we here to teach our children how to be better informed citizens for the best of the entire Earth? These are just a few reasons why my school is considered to be a National School of Character, a responsibility we greatly take on. I hope this gives you a few ideas. :)

    Mitzy, thanks so much for leaving this great input. Wow! Where do you live? It sounds like a very progressive area. I’d love to learn more, and will plan to bring some of these ideas to our school system! — Lynn

  7. Mitzy on December 23, 2008 3:23 pm

    Lynn, I work in the Rockwood School District outside of St. Louis, MO. You can visit the district website at on “Going Green”. A lot of our buildings suggestions come from the Parent Club’s. To go along with the no extrinsic rewards, the teacher’s did not recieve winter gifts from the PTA this year. All of that money that would normally have been given to the teachers, was donated to local charities in Chesterfield’s name. There are too many positive examples of leadership that I could rattle on about. Also, over winter break, I am reading a book called, “Mid-Scale Vermicomposting of Lunchroom Wastes” by Binet Payne. Hopefully we will soon begin implementing vermicomposting. Have a happy holiday.

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