What Schools Can Do to Implement Sustainability

by Bria Zegarelli


February 13, 2024

One of the easiest ways to introduce the next generation to sustainability is to implement environmentally-friendly ideals into their learning and learning environments! These are 15 ideas for how sustainability could be implemented into schools and students’ lives: 

1] Talking about sustainability in class

Talking about sustainability in class is probably the simplest way to get students exposed to ideas about the environment and how we can collectively help. For elementary schoolers, teachers might be able to teach about basic ideas about nature and easy things they can do at home in order to keep the environment healthy and clean, such as turning off lights and not leaving water on. For middle schoolers, it might be helpful to go more in-depth with information about negative changes currently occurring in the environment. Middle schoolers might also have a fun time doing sustainability-related projects or experiments in class. For older students, offering entire classes dedicated to environmental science (if the school has resources) is a great way for teenagers and young adults to learn more about sustainability and possibly implement it into their own lives. Also, showing students environmentally-focused movies and books or talking about current events about the environment will also get a discussion going about sustainability as well as the implications of topics like climate change or waste. 

2] Having more recycling bins in schools 

If schools were to add more recycling bins to their classrooms, cafeterias, or hallways, students would be able to make conscious decisions about what to do with their trash or food waste. Also, art teachers or professors could encourage students to use recycled materials for their projects. 

3] Implementing sustainability clubs

Schools can create sustainability clubs that could promote environmental consciousness within schools or school events. These clubs could also go to local farms or gardens to help, or they could raise money for projects that could help with the school’s or community’s sustainability. 

4] Partnering with local farms or gardens

Schools could partner with local farms or gardens in order to promote ideas of sustainability and environmental consciousness within their students. This could be a long term partnership, such as a college having their own farm or getting food from and helping at a local farm–but this could be as simple as environmental science classes or clubs going to a nearby farm and helping out for a day.

5] Reusing supplies

Buying new things is always fun, but reusing school supplies is one of the easiest ways to reduce waste in the classroom. 

6] Composting in cafeterias

Instead of throwing away all of the food waste that students have in their cafeterias, schools can instead compost this food and turn it into soil fertilizer. That way, all of what would have ended up as waste can actually help the environment and the growth of different plants or produce. 

7] Taking students on environmental science field trips

Taking students on environmentally-focused field trips is definitely helpful in introducing them to ideas of sustainability. Places like trails, farms, or recycling centers are great for allowing students to learn about the environment as well as the behind-the-scenes on different agricultural or environmentally-conscious fields. 

8] Implementing a school garden or gardening projects

Gardening and planting are great ways to allow students to get hands-on experience with learning about the cycles of nature. Students could take care of plants inside their classrooms, or the students could take some mini plants home and do a project about caring for them. Also, schools could have small gardens outside and allow the students to plant their own flowers or other small plants. This would not only teach students about the inner workings of nature, but it would also teach them to be environmentally-conscious.

9] Conserving energy

Energy conservation in the classroom is also a good way to implement environmental consciousness. It can be as simple as just turning the lights off during a lesson and letting the natural light take over!

10] Sustainable packaging for school lunches

Schools can increase their sustainability by having reusable or compostable trays. They can also encourage students to pack their lunches using less plastic and more reusable containers.

11] Having drives for second-hand items

Schools could have drives where students could bring in second-hand belongings, which could either be swapped by other students and teachers, or they could all be donated right from the start. This could encourage students to think about what things they actually need or don’t need, and this could affect how they view consumption and waste.

12] Raising money for environmental charities

Schools can do research into environmental charities that might be in their area. If they have an environmental club or environmental science class, they could hold a fundraiser to help raise money for these organizations, which would in turn help the nature within their community.

13] Reducing paper usage

A lot of professors and teachers want their students printing every assignment in order to avoid screens, which is understandable. However, in a sustainability context, using less paper and making sure not to print when you really don’t need to is an easy way for both students and teachers to promote ideas of keeping the environment intact.

14] Having more responsible food providers

This might be easier for colleges, but different schools could look into who is providing their food, and they could research whether the servicer uses sustainable practices. Depending on the area that the school is in and the resources they have, they may be able to partner with food organizations that prioritize sustainability. The schools could also get food from local farms or even have their own if they’re in a more rural area.

15] Clean with non-toxic products

When wiping down a classroom, especially with cold and flu season, teachers could try to use products that are non-toxic so when wipes are thrown out, it doesn’t hurt the environment. School custodians could also implement this into their routine if they can as well. This might be easier with things like all-purpose cleaner or general, everyday soap.


Bria Zegarelli is a regular contributor to The Green Voice.