Celebrating the people who watch out for their kids, for other peoples' kids AND for the environment, there is now a contest for "America's Greenest School" -- and the prize is a hybrid bus.
Students can enter by visiting www.AmericasGreenestSchool.com. On the site, they can learn more about making their school more environmentally friendly and submit a 500-word essay that describes what makes their school "green." Activities such as setting up in-school recycling programs, keeping lights turned off when not in use, using environmentally smart landscaping and encouraging students to ride school buses instead of driving to school are all ideal solutions for creating a greener school.
Of course, not all schools are green already. Students can edge their school toward contention for the "greenest school" title in later contests and help the planet right now. Terra Wellington, author of the forthcoming book "The Mom's Guide To Growing Your Family Green," offers these 5 easy tips to get your school started going green:
* Ride the bus: Riding the school bus is a great way to reduce your school's carbon footprint. The American School Bus Council estimates that each diesel school bus takes 36 cars off the road, which significantly reduces fuel use, emissions and traffic congestion. In fact, 3.1 billion gallons of fuel are saved annually by students who ride school buses instead of riding in cars.
* Use both sides of the paper: Ask your teacher if you can print reports and other homework assignments "double-sided" to save paper. By printing double sided, your paper consumption is halved, significantly reducing waste.
* Become a light monitor: Ask your teacher to use the classroom's natural light whenever possible. When the classroom is empty, make sure lights are turned off and computers are in standby mode. A standby setting can reduce power over 90 percent, helping to conserve energy.
* Pack a litterless lunch: Don't use any disposable containers to pack your lunch from brown bags to plastic baggies. Instead, use containers that can be washed and reused. In a litterless lunch, the only items left over should go to compost, like a banana peel.
* Recycle: Ask your teacher or principal about setting up a recycling bin for paper, plastic bottles and cans. If your school already has a program, encourage others to participate.