Trash the Trash

Designate Earth Day (April 22) as Trash the Trash Day, when students bring in a lunch that creates zero garbage. That means packing their lunch in reusable materials and using thermoses or bottles instead of juice boxes, cloth napkins instead of paper, even silverware instead of plastic forks and spoons. Instead of buying individually wrapped packages of chips, cookies, and other snacks, buy them in bulk and pack single servings in washable containers. Even yogurt can be purchased in large containers and scooped into smaller reusable ones for lunches. If every child did this every day, your school would save an average of 67.5 pounds of trash per year, per child, according to data from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Walk or Bike to School

Encourage kids to walk or bike to school on April 22. Recruit parents to escort groups of children from each neighborhood. If the school is too far to walk all the way, ask parents to set up carpools to a spot near the school and walk the children from there. Walking to school sends the message to kids that they don’t need to burn fossil fuels to get where they’re going. And it’s good for their health!

Holiday shop all done? Thank your volunteers so they’ll be ready to help next year

Spruce Up the School

Organize teams of children and parents to pick up trash in the area around your school on a weekend day during April. Or go for the gold and organize a communitywide cleanup day. Provide trash bags, assign routes, and ask parents and their kids to bring heavy work gloves to wear. At the end of the day, reward your hard workers with a cookout.

Omit the Emissions

Work with school officials and your bus company to keep school buses from idling when dropping off or picking up students. If your school allows parents to line up in their cars to pick up students at dismissal time, send out the word that they should turn off their engines, as well. Let parents know that idling vehicles not only waste fuel but also emit harmful pollutants into the air that can damage children’s developing lungs and aggravate conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. The exhaust doesn’t just pollute the air outside the building; it can seep into the school through open windows, doors, and vents.

Holiday shop all done? Thank your volunteers so they’ll be ready to help next year

Sponsor an Earth Day Poster Contest

Your entire school will know Earth Day is April 22 if your PTO or PTA sponsors a poster contest to mark it. Ask faculty members or the art teacher to allow students to use class time to work on their posters so everyone has a chance to enter. Select winning posters from each grade, but display all the works in the hallways of your school.

Beautify the Schoolyard

Ask for donations of bulbs, flowers, and other plantings, and organize a group of people with green thumbs to make garden beds around the schoolyard. Even better, work with teachers to get the students involved. This is a great hands-on project for classes that are studying the lifecycle of plants.

Collect Gently Used School Supplies

Ask families to scour their cupboards and drawers for unsharpened pencils, gently used crayons, erasers, and other art supplies they no longer need that might otherwise end up in a landfill. Set up a collection point at school and choose a deserving recipient for the dona tions, such as a day-care center, a shelter for homeless families, or a public library children’s room. Giving new life to unwanted items is one of the most cost-effective ways to recycle!

Retire the Backpack Express

If you’re still sending home flyers and newsletters in children’s backpacks, switch to a paperless method of communication. Send your notices via email (Parent Express Email is free from PTO Today) and set up a group on Facebook that parents can join. By going paperless, you’ll save trees and money. And parents will be grateful not to have more paper to sort through, too.

Host an Earth Day Reading Night

Ask your school or local community librarian to recommend books with an environmental message, such as The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. Invite a representative of a conservation organization to be your guest reader. Leave time during the evening for your guest to talk with the children about his work and why it’s important to protect open spaces. (You can order a free Family Reading Night planning kit on ptotoday.com.)

Go Local

Organize a farmers market featuring local foods and other goods. Locally grown and produced goods are easier on the environment than those that are transported long distances to their destinations. Of course, depending on where you live, it may be too early in the season for local produce, but your group can invite community members to sell other goods made close to home, such as honey from local hives, preserves, crafts, and other handmade wares.