Green Moms & Public Schools: Top 10 Green School Projects – Pick One!

August 30th, 2010

If your child is heading off to school for the first time, prepare yourself: you may suffer Green Mom Culture Shock, like I did when my son entered public school two years ago.

For eco-conscious parents who have agonized over a zillion purchasing decisions related to choosing the greenest, healthiest products for home cleaning and only the freshest, local, organic and sustainable foods, it can be hard to cope when you discover your local “green” school doesn’t seem so green, particularly when compared to your own home.

While most schools these days (at least here in Montgomery County, Maryland and the surrounding DC suburbs) do have a Green Committee at the PTA level, you may find, as I did, that “green” means different things to different people.  To some, the main function of the green committee should be tending to a school garden. For others, it’s recycling or “waste free lunch.”   What happens if there’s so much to do, you just don’t know where to start?  And is it really possible that maybe, just maybe everything “green” has been “done” at your school?

I’ve put together a “Dream List” of Ten Green School Projects you may want to tackle this year, and I’ve  linked to posts that relate to the project whenever possible. Am I suggesting you try to get the PTA to tackle all ten? Uh, no. (You might want to first read my post, Green Schools: Five Lessons Learned the Hard Way).  But maybe, just maybe,  you can work to get one new project added to your Green Committee’s existing project list.

Take a look and let me know what you think. I’m particularly interested in hearing from parents who’ve tackled the walkable school initiatives. What’s worked and what hasn’t worked for you at your kids’ schools?

Top 10 Green School Projects

  1. Waste Free School Lunch
  2. Ban the Bottled Water  – Switch to Bottles and Jugs!
  3. Solar, Wind, and Alternative Energy at School
  4. Just Say No to Mandatory AntiBacterial Hand Sanitizers and Soaps
  5. Healthier School Lunches
  6. Just Say No to Cheap Plastic Crap: Oh, the Trinkets!
  7. Why Throw Out Unopened Milk? Forced Dumping of Unopened School Milk Bottles in the Garbage
  8. Energy Audits: Wearing T-Shirts In The Classroom During Winter = An Energy Efficiency Problem in Your School
  9. Buses? Try Walkable Schools!
  10. Healthy Schools, Healthy Cleaners. (Or Did You Ever Consider Your Child’s Mysterious Head Aches Might Be Related to the Cleaners Used at Your School?)

This is a post for the Green Moms Carnival on Back to School – our third annual! – hosted by the lovely Micaela at Mindful Momma. After you leave your comment, be sure to check out the other posts!

— Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

Green Schools: Green Moms Tell It Like It Is!

August 11th, 2009

With 32 submissions from 28 green women bloggers, I am thrilled to share what may be the most comprehensive listing of environmentally friendly back-to-school tips on the web. From daycare to college to homeschooling, we’ve got you covered! And these tips are from women who’ve been there and done that: the wonderful women of the Green Moms Carnival.  Thanks to all of the contributors for sharing your insights so that together, we can green those schools!

On a side note, Happy Birthday to the Carnival! It’s hard to believe, but we got started a  year ago August when we launched our very first carnival, “Tackling Global Warming.”

Let’s  dive in. The 32 blog posts fall into eight categories:

  1. At the Beginning: Green Childcare;
  2. Healthy Meals and How to Pack a Waste-Free Lunch;
  3. School Supply Lists and Eco-Friendly School Supplies;
  4. The Edible Schoolyard;
  5. Why It’s Worth Fighting to Keep Recess;
  6. Greening Your School: From Green Committees to Green Certification;
  7. Back to School: Homeschooling Edition; and
  8. Tips for Green College Kids.

So sit back, grab your BPA-free water bottle, and enjoy this comprehensive look at Green Schools.

At the Beginning: Green Child Care

  • Mary Hunt of In Women We Trust tells us how the Los Angeles Community College District is setting new standards for green building, which benefits the child care centers in the system. As Mary puts it, “build green, teach green, learn green, live green and bring the next generation along in your footsteps.”

Eating Healthy  – What to Eat and How to Pack a Waste-Free Lunch

  • Of course we all know the most important meal of the day is breakfast. Sommer from Green and Clean Mom shares  some great Healthy Breakfast Ideas
  • Amy from Crunchy Domestic Goddess shares some really nifty tips for Turning Back to School Lunches Green. I especially appreciate the fact that Amy brings up the issue of over packaging, and she even includes links to great recipes!
  • Green Bean from Green Phone Booth shares a wonderful story about an old cookbook, circa 1951, devoted to packing  healthy, interesting, and waste-free lunches. She poses the question: So what have we really learned in 2 generations?
  • Like Green Bean, Mindful Momma writes about a simpler era and then goes on to include some simply wonderful, clever tips for packing a healthy lunch. Check it out!
  • Amy of  Gift of Green passes along some helpful tips for how to pack a waste-free lunch in her post, “Back to School, Back to Green.”

Those Darn School Supply Lists, Plus Eco-Friendly School Supplies: What are They? And  How to Find Them

  • Are you sick and tired of antibacterial soap everywhere, including on your child’s school supply list?  ( I know I am!) Katie from Kitchen Stewardship issues this Bath and Body Works Anti-Antibacterial Soap Letter.  Katie has made it easy to, as she puts it, “vent about the overuse of the toxic triclosan and the crazy marketing Bath and Body Works throws at us, our children, and their school administrators.” On her site you’ll also  find links to information about safe hand-washing, the dangers of antibacterial soaps, and a breakdown of hand sanitizers to prepare you for the back-to-school germaphobia.  (Frankly, I think I’ll pass her letter along to my school administrators in addition to Bath and Body Works. It irks me to no end that we were all but required to buy anti-bacterial cleansers  for the classroom!)
  • Sommer of Green and Clean Mom, in her second submission to the carnival, feels much the same as Katy does about anti-bacterial cleansers, particularly those with triclosan.  In her post, “Triclosan and the Non-Toxic Classroom,” this former teacher offers some tips for dealing with the schools around this issue.
  • Beth Terry of Fake Plastic Fish presents us with a conundrum: which one of these three binder options is actually more environmentally friendly?  As with so much in the green movement, the choices aren’t clear-cut.
  • However, as Beth points out in her second contribution to the carnival, the choice of using PVC or not is actually quite clear-cut. Beth presents a great argument against the use of PVC binders, lunchboxes, and the like, and links to more resources from the Center for Health and Environmental Justice, which has just launched a Parent’s Guide to Safer School Supplies.
  • I swear, everytime I read one of EnviroMom’s postings I feel like packing it in and moving to Portland. This one is no exception,  with Renee writing about a wonderful local organization that consolidates the school supply lists and donates excess to charity. She also shares some of her hits and misses in shopping for eco-friendly items for back-to-school.

Eco-Friendly School Supplies,  Waste-Free Lunch Tips and More: All in One Green Tips for Back to School!

Several of the @GreenMoms shared great round-up posts with tips for green back-to-school that include everything from healthy waste-free lunches to eco-friendly school supplies, to clothing, walking instead of riding, and more! 

  • Just when we’ve figured out what BPA is and what all those plastic # signs mean, we’ve got another strange substance to become familiar with:  Microban.  Read all about it here courtesy of Jennifer Taggert, the SmartMama.
  • Tiffany from Nature Moms gives great tips on Eco Friendly lunch boxes and water bottles,  including reviews of some of her favorites, as well as helpful tips for clothing, backpacks, and other school supplies that are kind to the environment.
  • In “Going Back to School Green,” Leslie from Recycle Your Day shares her memories of how she prepped for back to school – back in the days when recycled paper was gray and cheaper than conventional paper!  Plus, she shares plenty of more-up-to-date tips with us, including reviews of a few favorite products.
  • And if you’re not sure your kid can master the art of returning bottles and containers, Diane of Big Green Purse has a “secret tip” for you, in addition to some great background information on why environmentally-friendly lunch boxes are so important. Check out “Lunch Boxes Should Be Safe and Environmentally Friendly” and learn about some of Diane’s favorite eco-friendly options!
  • If you find that some of these eco-friendly lunch kits simply cost more than  you’re willing to spend, check out “How to Pack a Cheap and Easy Waste-Free Lunch” where I share some of my favorite frugal green tips, from $1.99 for a big pack of recyclable brown bags to el-cheapo reusbale food containers.

School Supplies: End-of-Year Disposal Issues and a Quest for More Sustainable School Supplies

The Edible Schoolyard: Kindergarten Edition

  • Deanna from Crunchy Chicken shares “The Edible Schoolyard,” an encouraging tale of how a kindergarten class started an edible garden at her local elementary school.

Why It’s Worth Fighting to Keep Recess

  • In “Recess Helps Kids Learn, Don’t Take It Away!” Katy Farber of Non-Toxic Kids shares her insights about why it’s important to keep recess a priority in the schools. One would think that the research on the benefits of healthy recess would be well understood by educators, but unfortunately it’s still not a priority in our nation’s schools.

Greening Your School: From Green Committees to LEED Certification,  & Asbestos Abatement

  • Tiffany from Mommy Goes Green shares “My Healthy School” – some great tips for working with your school administration to green your school. 
  • The bloggy world is so crazy – I had to go to BlogHer to meet Jennifer from Puddle Jumping in DC – who just submitted a wonderful post about a  certified green school, right here in Montgomery County, Maryland, where I live! I had no idea! Check out Jennifer’s post, which includes a wonderful video of a 5th grade girl discussing what it’s like to study at a green school.

Back to School: HomeSchooling Edition

  • Of course, it’s dilemmas like the fight for recess that Katy described in her post that are pushing more and more parents to private schools and to homeschooling. Lisa Sharp doesn’t  have kids of her own, but she was homeschooled and she shares some wonderful memories and tips for Green home schooling parents in her post, “Back to School: Home Schooling Edition.”

Tips for Green College Kids

  • We’ve run the gamut from daycare to college. The kids have grown up, but we parents are still concerned with keeping ep them healthy and safe. Karen Hanrahan of Best of Mother Earth shares her tips for helpful herbal remedies for how to Keep  Your College Kid Healthy.
  • Lisa of Condo Blues shares ten tips for college students who want to go green. My favorite? Donate unused clothing, furniture, food, etc. before leaving campus.

About the Green Moms Carnival – We are a group of green women bloggers, united by our desire to protect and preserve Mother Earth. Once a month or so, we share our thoughts on a common theme, so that together our environmental messages are heard by more people than we could possibly ever reach on our own. You can read more about us here and you can subscribe to all our blog posts automatically through Twitter at @GreenMoms.

— Lynn

Earth Day & Graham Crackers

April 20th, 2009

“Mama, can you fix my graham cracker?”

It was a plaintive question from a small voice in the back of the car. As parents, our instinct is to help our kids whenever we can. But sadly, I had to explain that some things — like broken graham crackers — can’t be fixed.

No sooner had I responded than it hit me. With Earth Day reminders all around us, I couldn’t help but take that question and apply it to the environment. How much of the environmental degradation will we be able to fix? What is reversible, and what is not ?

The answers are not simple.

And as Earth Day continues its metamorphosis into a Buy Green Holiday, it’s important to recognize that we can’t buy our way out of this mess. Sure, investments in certain areas can help, as can replacing toxic products with eco-friendly substitutes.

But what would happen if we all took a close look at our local environmental issues and tried to figure out what we could do to fix things? Here are a few things you do:
– Clean up the litter in a local park or along a river, as these people do in DC’s Rock Creek;
– Plant a tree or take inspiration from this 21-year-old and support a reforestation program;
– Support one of the many fine environmental organizations trying to make a difference in this tough economic environment. Some of my faves: The Nature Conservancy; Environmental Working Group; and Healthy Child, Healthy World. Others? The local groups working hard to make a difference in your own backyard. Here in the DC area that means groups like Friends of Rock Creek, The Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Bethesda Green.

What have you fixed recently? Leave a comment and share. Really, I want to hear what you’ve been up to! Haven’t done anything lately? Hmm…quit surfing the ‘Net and get moving!

— Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Easy Green Weekend Project: E-Cycling.

December 12th, 2008

If you live in my neck of the woods (Bethesda, Maryland), this weekend’s project is really easy. If you don’t live nearby, maybe you can pick up the phone or email a local government representative to ask when your municipality will be sponsoring an e-cycling day. And check out the list of more than 25 items that can be e-cycled! I had no idea – and I’m someone who’s really “into” recycling! Can you name all 25 e-cyclable items listed below?

On Sunday, bring your old electronics to be e-cycled between 12:00 and 4:00 p.m. at Walt Whitman High School. (There is a limit of 3 TVs per car).

You can win a new Samsung 26” Energy Star TV and everyone will leave with a bottle of Honest Tea!

Here’s the full scoop:

Electronics Recycling Day in the parking lot of Walt Whitman High School. The county will have trucks and staff to remove electronics from residents’ cars as they drive through the parking lot.
Accepted items include:
* small electronic appliances
* calculators
* camcorders
* CDs and floppy disks
* CD players
* cell phones
* computers and computer-related products
* consumer electronics
* copiers
* cords and cables (including chargers)
* digital cameras
* electronic typewriters
* fax machines
* microwave ovens
* personal digital assistant equipment
* printers
* projection equipment
* scanners
* telephones
* small electronic toys
* televisions
* VCRs

All collected items are recycled.

Sorry, we do not accept videotapes in our electronics recycling program.
How many items may I bring?

You may bring up to 3 televisions.

If you have significant quantities of other electronic items, contact the Division of Solid Waste Services online or call them at 240-777-6560 to see whether they can accept your items, or whether they must refer you to a private electronics recycler.

Easy Green Weekend Project #4: Learning about Creeks

September 19th, 2008

Barely recovered from back-to-school Green Mom Culture Shock, I’ve been struggling to keep it together as a single Mom this week while DH has been away “conferencing.” To give you some sense for how it’s gone, here are the catch phrases Big Boy taught Baby Boo this week:
• “Mean Mommy”
• “You’re a Big Meanie”

Well, I don’t know about you, but when I get stressed out, there’s nothing like reconnecting with nature to restore a sense of calm and perspective.

If you’re in the DC area, check out the “Discover the Somerset Creek” event this Sunday from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. And if you’re not in DC? Well, think about it – when was the last time you explored a creek? Heck, when was the last time you even said the word creek?

Join naturalists Sarah Morse and Suzanne Richman for a walk along the Little Falls Branch Creek which winds through the Chevy Chase, Green Acres and Westbrook communities. Learn about the challenges facing an urban creek and the steps you can take to help preserve this fragile environment.

Meet at Somerset Town Hall, 4510 Cumberland Ave, Chevy Chase, Maryland. Wear sturdy shoes as there will be two creek crossings on stepping stones.

Sponsored by the Little Falls Watershed Alliance. Contact LFWA at for more information.

Have a great weekend!

— Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

Looking for Organic Food Savings Friday?

June 29th, 2008

Sorry I’m late with this…this Friday turned into “Welcome Back, DH” Friday instead of Organic Savings Friday. Lots of great finds and observations to share, but they’ll be coming tonight or tomorrow….In the meantime, you can get organic food savings updates by following me on Twitter.

OrganicMania tweets Live! What the heck does that mean? I’m taking my mobile phone with me on my shopping rounds and blasting out “microblogging” updates on all my finds – like this one on Horizon organic cheese 40% off or this morning’s warning about incorrect signage or this great find on organic strawberries – cheaper than conventional. You can register here to follow-me on Twitter and get all these updates as they happen. I’m normally in the stores twice weekly. Plus, I send out updates about all kinds of other “green” things – everything from Bethesda Green updates to Montgomery County’s new carbon reduction plan to discovering a new organic café! Check it out and come join me! Plus, Twitter is two-way, so you can message me and I can easily get back to you!

And in the meantime, I promise to get this week’s post up soon – thanks for bearing with me. Single parenthood was rough this week – I have no idea how people do it on a regular basis (and I say that as someone who was raised by a single Mom!)


Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

A Travesty on Earth Day

April 23rd, 2008


It happened on Earth Day, in Bethesda, Maryland. In a city which has an innovative program underway to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. In a county that on that very day passed a green building law as well as laws requiring Montgomery County workers to use biofuels and to justify the use of SUVs. In a country whose President posed for a photo opp planting trees to commemorate Earth Day.

Eight healthy, beautiful, four story tall trees adjacent to a city sidewalk felled to make way for yet another condominium building. This happened on Earth Day. Really.


Copyright OrganicMania 2008

A Community Goes Green – Watch Bethesda Green

March 14th, 2008

Green initiatives are popping up all around the world, as people try to do something meaningful to slow global warming, reverse pollution, and make the environment cleaner and safer for generations to come. You’ve seen it with the Eco-Moms, Portland’s Green Groups, and now, the kick-off of Bethesda Green, an ambitious project to make Bethesda, Maryland a model green community.

In what may be the first effort of this type, business, government, community, and non-profit leaders are coming together to develop programs that will reduce Bethesda’s carbon footprint, increase its recycling rate, and reduce landfill waste and pollution. And this is just the first phase of the project! In the second phase, Bethesda Green aims to encourage smart growth and green development and to green its business community.

Championed by a local business leader and a county councilman, Bethesda Green is being defined by its community members. Expectations were that 75 people would show up for the kick-off, but nearly 400 folks arrived – from retirees to students to Moms to business owners to community and civic leaders.

This is such a new concept that no one is sure exactly how things will unfold, but the goal is to make Bethesda a model green community.

Thinking about a similar green initiative in your community? Here are six tips to help you get started:

1. Don’t mandate – encourage.
2. Find like-minded leaders in your community and form a small steering committee to help set things in motion.
3. Be open-minded. Everyone has a stake in this. This means business and government and non-profits and students and private citizens.
4. Get some help from professional organizers, at least for the initial phases. Bethesda contracted with the Livability Project* and the Sustainable Business Network of Washington.
5. Make it fun. Plan interesting events to educate and entertain.
6. Put as much on the web as you can. Identify best web practices to facilitate cooperation and communication.


Bethesda Green Website (Soon to be relaunched)

Bethesda Green Blog (Soon to be relaunched)

Local media coverage – Washington Business Journal, Bethesda Gazette, more Gazette coverage

Launch Kick-off Remarks by Seth Goldman of Honest Tea, the visionary behind Bethesda Green

Have you been involved in similar initiatives? What do you think about Bethesda Green? Leave a comment and share! Continue reading »