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I dream of green schools

I dream of “green” schools in my community; of parents, students, teachers, and administrators working together to make our children’s education sustainable and earth-friendly.

In my dream the sidewalks are vibrant with healthy students and staff who are walking and bicycling to classes and after-school activities. Kindergartners and first-graders stroll hand in hand with moms, dads, and grandparents. With so many people out and about we are confident our children will be safe - even in the evening. One occasionally sees a parent driving a child to a medical or dental appointment, but it has become rare for parents to routinely drive their children. Neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night stops us on our way to school; we dress for the weather and are invigorated by fellowship, fresh air, and physical activity!

It is painful to recall how we once swarmed here in cars and SUVs and gargantuan pickup trucks, often irritated from lack of wholesome exercise, endangering pedestrians, isolated from neighbors, guzzling petroleum, and exposing our children to an atmosphere of exhaust fumes. And think of all the valuable land that was wasted on huge parking lots! Thank God we came to our senses. Now that our schools are “green”, village youths and school staff deploy 100% renewable human energy to get around town, students and teachers who live further away share fuel-efficient buses and carpool, and evening buses take children home after their extra-curricular endeavors.

I see teachers and students speed-walking at noon, friends ambling downtown for espresso, the buff bicycling group heading out for a quick 10K spin. The air is bright with happy voices. There are no rumbling mufflers, no squealing tires, no blasting stereos - even grease-starved driving-age teens are eco-savvy enough to hoof it or pedal five blocks to a fast food joint. Gone too are the clusters of slouching, atrophied smokers busily speed-puffing their way to cancer wards. Cool is different now; our offspring know that saving their planet must begin within themselves.

I see some vehicles with disabled plates and carpool vans in the staff section, but otherwise the modest-sized school parking lot is almost empty. In contrast, there are hundreds of bicycles in the bike racks.

I see parents and relatives who, having come via sustainable self-propulsion, arrive refreshed and energized for sports events, performances, and parent-teacher conferences. Now that carpooling is the norm for distant suburbanites and exurbanites, vehicle traffic at school events is so modest that disabled and elderly people can be driven right to the door, and handicapped parking stalls near entrances are never appropriated by able-but-lazy folk.

Notice that in my dream I have not mentioned bricks and mortar once. Why? Because the most unsustainable aspect of our current school system is our exorbitant use of fuel and motor vehicles on the way to school! “Green” buildings and grounds are important too, but sustainable BEHAVIOR must be our #1 goal. Where to start? With ourselves.

Are you committed to walking the talk of “green” schools?

Editorial Notes: Hans Noeldner has written a number of pieces for Energy Bulletin and other websites. -BA

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