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Back to School Week: Grade Schools Nationwide Go Green

Immanuel Giel at Wikimedia Commons under a GNU Free Documentation license.)While the greening efforts of U.S. colleges and universities seem to capture the most media attention, elementary schools across the country are no slouches when it comes to eco-action.

Look at what’s happening at some of these schools:

In Maury County, Tennessee, at least 15 district schools have started, or plan to start, recycling programs for paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, cans and more.  Their goal is to dramatically reduce the prodigious quantities of garbage schoolkids can generate: some 200 pounds of trash per child per school year, according to one estimate. Besides being good for the environment, the recycling programs benefit the schools in two ways: by reducing waste-hauling expenses and by generating extra cash through the sale of recyclable materials.

Prince George’s County in Maryland boasts the district’s first “eco-green” school: Vansville Elementary in Beltsville. The energy-efficient grade school uses geothermal energy for heating and cooling, and recycles at least 75 percent of its waste. Inside, you’ll find other green features, including urinals that don’t use water and furniture made from the trees felled to make room for the school.

Officials with the Daniel Boone School District (Reading, Pennsylvania) also had energy-efficiency in mind when they drew up plans for their newest school, Monocacy Elementary Center. The $22.5 million building, which just opened, uses geothermal energy and also draws heat from outflowing air in the ventilation system to conserve energy. The structure was also built to maximize natural lighting throughout.

In Mercer County, West Virginia, school cafeterias have switched from Styrofoam to washable and reusable trays, cups and flatware. School board meetings have gone greener too: the fat packets of paper once handed out to board members have been replaced with CDs, online forms and email memos.

St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, Florida, this month opened its new Moabery Early Years Learning Center, a LEED-certified addition said to be the “first independent or public K-12 school registered as a LEED for Schools project in South Florida.” The building was constructed with VOC-free materials, uses a cistern to capture rainwater from the roof, features solar tubes to minimize the need for artificial lighting and provides preferred parking spaces for low-emissions and fuel-efficient cars.