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Growing Green Thinkers: How Sustainability Impacts Education

Words by 3p Contributor
New Activism
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Education doesn’t only revolve around the palm-sweating need for top rankings and high standardized test scores. Education also includes the everyday moments in between. Like, when you save a turtle in the road or a lady bug from drowning in the pool. Not to make light of doing well in school and on the SATs — those are critical, but there is value on the journey as well.

We’ve all been taught the importance of Mother Earth, albeit with industrialization taking its toll on the globe, but there is a strong need for more emphasis. Fortunately, sustainable programs have been sprouting up in academic institutions and are continuing to grow. These programs are growing strong roots in schools from elementary to higher education.

Life’s a garden, dig it


It’s refreshing to see many gardens springing up at schools. This version of a sustainable program is geared at cultivating a sense of pride in the community. There is nothing like saving money at the grocery store when you can stop in at the school garden for locally-grown goodies.

The school garden, garden club and environmental science programs offer students fundamental concepts in learning that life is interconnected and includes cycle changes. Not only should the school garden be used for growing but for utilizing compost, harvesting and creating recipes for seasonal pickings. This priceless education gives students the ability to put their hands on food that is grown straight from nature while tasting unique flavors. A garden is an excellent way to embed knowledge on how sustainability can flourish to infinity and beyond.

No more energy vampires


Green schools reduce energy costs by 35 percent every school year, which is equivalent of $3 billion nationwide. That is a significant impact. The Green Schools Alliance (GSA) is one of many programs that are designed to help schools use less energy, reduce costs and make choices toward sustainability.

Many buildings are known for over-illumination during the day and light pollution at night. Schools are implementing energy audits that go into detail about the type of energy a building is using, where it’s coming from and how much is used. Knowledge is power in finding new ways to save and use energy, pun intended!

Energy efficient practices includes, monitoring temperatures, choosing natural light over artificial, using solar panels, and choosing energy saving technology. Energy efficiency, though a great way to save, is more than just saving dollars — it’s saving the planet and that’s priceless.

Energy efficiency teaches students over consumption and the negative effects it has on the environment. This lesson creates healthy habits towards the initiative to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases omitted in the atmosphere. This provokes students to think forward about the future — today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders.

Degrees in sustainability


A growing number of higher education programs are offering environmental science degrees that solely focus on sustainability. These programs train and educate students on practicing in ways that put the environment first. It’s quite obvious how the earth is in dire straights of more sustainable methods, so a degree in sustainability seems like a stellar career move. This college program is not only personally rewarding but rewarding for the environment as well. That sounds like 360 of awesomeness. The planet needs an expanding team of intelligent tree huggers dressed in wolves clothing to roam the streets and advocate for our planet.

Innovations that are being practiced are: composting cafeteria food while reducing landfill waste, the use of LEED lighting, the availability of wind and solar energy and offerings of local produce. Here are some of the top green U.S. colleges where students are leading the way to a greener planet:


  • Tufts University

  • Warren Wilsons College

  • University of New Hampshire

  • Middlebury College

  • The University of Colorado, Boulder

Planting educational methods in sustainability throughout our educational institutions is vital and a wise choice in pursuing a more environmental friendly way of life.

Image credit: Flickr/Choiyaki

3p Contributor

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