Sep 29, 2011

How green is your school?

It is easy for us moms to keep the home environment safe and healthy. We buy non toxic cleaning products, use no VOC paints and adhesives and feed our children organic food. But what happens when children transition from home to school? Before we know it, the majority of our child's day is spent in a classroom, gymnasium and cafeteria. In most cases, the school building is older, often plagued with mold, asbestos, poor indoor air quality and hidden PCB's. Although we can not change this environment over night, we can start asking our school administrators some questions. As parents, we are advocates for our children who are entitled to a safe and healthy learning environment.

The following questions will provide a great start to a "How green is your school?" conversation:
  1. Does your school use pesticides? Legislation was passed that bans the use of pesticides on school playing fields. However, these toxic chemicals are also used for pest management. No one wants their children in a pest infested school but there are healthier, safer alternatives. Although not totally chemical free, integrated pest management is a better alternative. It is good to know what chemicals your children are exposed to each day.
  2. Has your school had a problem with lice? Traditionally, infestations of lice are treated with shampoos that are highly chlorinated. There are much safer options that are now available over the counter...consider using regular olive oil!
  3. Is your school still using cleaners that contain harsh chemicals? They shouldn't be because schools are now mandated to use "green" cleaners. However, just because the label says green, it does not mean that the product is healthy and safe. Many schools still ask parents or teachers to bring Clorox wipes into the classroom...there is nothing healthy about Clorex! Consider using a safer alternative such as Seventh Generation or Earth Friendly Products. For a ChildSafe Purchasing Guide for industrial green cleaning products, visit All products listed here have a ChildSafe logo and were created by Guidelines determined by the EPA.
  4. Has the school been inspected for asbestos, lead paint and lead in the drinking water? If so, was the contractor a lead specialist? If not, is an inspection scheduled?
Needless to say, there are plenty of additional questions that need to be asked. However, this sample will provide a snapshot of the school's indoor air quality. We know that indoor air is far more contaminated than outdoor air but there are simple steps that we can take to create a healthier learning environment for our youngest scholars!

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