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With paperless homework, bookless backpacks, zero waste lunches, plastic-free filtered water and classrooms without walls, today’s parents and teachers are bringing eco-friendly ways to schools and giving students an early appreciation of the importance of environmental health.


G


oing green goes both ways— home to school and school to home. Alysia Reiner, an actress and eco-advocate from New York’s Harlem neighborhood, became in- volved with the Bank Street School for Children when her daughter enrolled at age 3. “I’m green at home, so in my mind her school had to be green, too. With no programs in place, I made sug- gestions, which got me elected co-chair of the green committee,” says Reiner, with a smile. “Today, we have a school-wide composting program serving 1,500 students that has reduced previous levels of food waste by 75 percent. To raise awareness and funds to support it, we sold reusable snack sacks, stainless steel water bottles and home compost- ing bags.” An innovative chef focuses on organic foods with vegetarian op- tions for school lunches. The next step is a rooftop garden.


When Sheila Hageman, an author, teacher and public speaker living in Mil-


ford, Connecticut, first read the memo requesting garbage-free lunches for her three children at the New England School-Montessori, she couldn’t imagine packing food without the use of plastic wrap, sandwich bags or paper napkins, but, “Now, it’s no big deal,” she says. “I use glass containers and cloth napkins. The kids eat better quality food. It costs less, too, because prepackaged snacks are out.” She notes that the governing rule is one protein, one fruit and one vegetable. The school even has a natural composter—a class guinea pig that loves to eat leftover veggies.


Students often bring the first of their homegrown vegetables each sea- son for show and tell in the classroom, where they normally eat lunch. It’s a neat way to avoid mass-produced food; the school has no cafeteria. “A little change becomes part of a lifestyle,” remarks Hageman.


Oxbridge Academy of the Palm Beaches, for grades nine through 12, in West Palm Beach, Florida, provides


by Avery Mack


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