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March/April 2010

Michigan Green Schools: 

Inspiring Environmental Stewardship

My children’s elementary school recently had their students participate in an empowering and creative project that will count as one of the activities to achieve their Michigan Green School status for the third year.  The school’s PTA Green Committee initiated a letter-writing campaign to various toy manufacturers on the subject of over-packaged toys.  Committee members conducted short presentations to each classroom and talked with the students about why toys are packaged the way they are; the natural resources used to make the packaging; how much of it ends up as trash in landfills and brainstorming on how toy packaging can be more eco-friendly.

The kids felt empowered once they understood that everyone, despite their age, has a voice and it’s called purchasingpower.  Toy companies are interested in what their consumers have to say because they are campaigning for our dollars.  Even though kids are not the actual purchasers most of the time, parents are responding to their kids’ wishes when they spend money.  We all gained a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when the students received an email response from Hasbro Corporation. Hasbro congratulated the students on their environmental awareness and explained that the company is serious about its commitment to creating packaging and products that are as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible.  They also listed some of the green initiatives already underway in the company.  The people at Hasbro took the time to listen carefully to this young generation, knowing that they have a lot of good things to say.

The letter-writing project was an effective way to blend curriculum objectives across academic disciplines with a green initiative.  It is also an example of how the Michigan Green Schools program allows our kids to actively explore a variety of environmental issues:  from energy conservation to endangered species;  from the 3R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) to native gardens and bird habitats;  from promoting waste-free lunches to learning about the Great Lakes watershed.  Each academic year, schools choose a range of green activities to pursue in order to achieve their green school status.

Most importantly, the Michigan Green Schools program is creating opportunities for students to be empowered, inspired and encouraged to change the world.  These opportunities are helping to form our children’s perception and values about our environment, helping them to interact and understand it.  Imagine a generation that learns at an early age to appreciate, respect and care for the environment in which we live.  The Michigan Green Schools program can be the stimulus our children need to be lifelong stewards of our environment.  A quote from Confucius sums it up eloquently, “Tell me and I’ll forget.  Show me and I may remember.  Involve me and I’ll understand.”  You can visit www.michigangreenschools.org for additional information on the program.

Tracy lives in Royal Oak with her family and is an environmental educator and co-owner of Earth-Smart LLC. She has an environmental policy degree from MSU and experience in solid waste management, municipal and commercial recycling and surface water quality.  She helped initiate the Michigan Green School designation at her children’s elementary school. Tracy can be reached at tapurrenhage@aol.com. Website www.ecosizeme.com

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