This year’s National Health Schools Day will take place on April 7, coinciding with Public Health Week, and will encourage communities to rally around their schools to make them healthier places for their valuable occupants. Here at the Center for Green Schools, we think this is a great chance to get started on your Green Apple Day of Service activities or check in on last year’s work!
Children need clean air outside, and they also need clean air inside. The US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has estimated that half of schools have indoor pollution problems that are largely avoidable, and the Institute of Medicine reported in 2011 that polluted indoor environments are unfortunately already damaging the nation’s health and learning.
Many schools have not been designed, built, and operated to be environmentally responsible to their most vulnerable occupants. Even schools intended to be built to green building standards can miss the mark when it comes to indoor environmental health. But, fortunately, times are changing: both the US EPA and the US Department of Education are encouraging state agencies and local schools to take action, and for good reasons. First, it makes sense to give our children a healthy environment. Second, it saves money in the long run to prevent indoor pollutants, instead of remediating them later at enormous costs. And third, healthy environments are good for education. According to the US EPA, healthy indoor environments boost attendance and achievement, and help with teacher recruitment, retention and productivity.
On this year’s National Healthy Schools Day, the Healthy Schools Network celebrates actions taken every day by schools across the country to protect children’s health. These include:
- seeking out and buying less-hazardous products to use indoors
- having hard surface flooring to make it easier to clean
- removing water-damaged carpeting
- phasing in certified green cleaning products to reduce or eliminate toxic chemicals
- eliminating air fresheners and room deodorizers
- disposing of old-outdated and hazardous chemicals to reduce the risks of spills and injuries
- keeping food and pets out of classrooms to reduce pest infestations
- de-cluttering a classroom to make the room easier to clean at the end of the day
Topping these actions off with advanced energy efficient lighting and ventilating systems will add even more savings long-term. For more ideas, visit the web site for National Healthy Schools Day.
On the 13th anniversary of National Healthy Schools Day, take the opportunity to think about your community’s school. What steps can you help them take to protect the health and wellbeing of the individuals and children who, during the school year, spend 8 or more hours each day there?