It's that time – students and teachers are headed back to school! As you and your family get ready to learn, keep these tips in mind for a healthier, greener school year.
- Travel to school efficiently. Ten to 14 percent of personal vehicle trips made during peak morning commuting hours are taking kids to school. Increased traffic and idling vehicles create air pollutants that can aggravate asthma and other health conditions. The U.S. EPA monitors air quality at schools around the country and looks for ways to improve air quality near schools, including reducing idling from school buses. You can help reduce morning traffic and protect air quality by carpooling with other parents and kids in the neighborhood. If the weather is nice and school is nearby, encourage your kids to walk or bike to school. If you are concerned about safety, help kids map a safe route to school and make the trip with them. You can map a route using International Walk to School's Map-a-Route tool.
- Look for recycled school supplies. Over 30 percent of our trash comes from cardboard and plastic packaging. When buying school supplies, look for pens, pencils, notebooks and notebook paper that are packed with and made from recycled and recyclable materials. Less trash means that we save space in our landfills and help reduce auto emissions from vehicles used to transport the waste. Plus, a tree is saved for every 42 notebooks made from 100 percent recycled paper.
- Power down. The average U.S. home spends 100 dollars each year to power devices while they are turned off or in standby mode. Plug computers into a power strip – when homework is done, shut down your computer and turn off the power strip to save energy. Unplug cell phone chargers, camera chargers and other charging cords when they aren't in use. These "energy vampires" draw a small amount of energy when they are plugged in, even when they are not connected to a device.
(Sources: US EPA. "Clean School Bus USA." http://www.epa.gov/cleandiesel/documents/420f06018.pdf; International Walk to School, "Community Benefits," http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/ready/why-walk-or-bike/community-benefits; U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, "It All Adds Up to Cleaner Air," www.italladdsup.gov; US EPA. "It's Our Environment: Going Green as You're Going Back to School." http://blog.epa.gov/blog/2012/08/going-green-as-you%E2%80%99re-going-back-to-school/; Energy Star. "Standby Power and Energy Vampires" http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=about.vampires)