A poll conducted by National Public Radio found that 86% of surveyed teachers felt climate change should be part of the contemporary student curriculum. However, less than half of teachers actively taught climate change due to a lack of materials, fear of complaining parents, and the absence of laws requiring them to do so. An analysis by the deputy director of the National Center for Science Education also reported that although 36 states currently recognize climate change caused by humans as part of their state science standards, the amount of teachers teaching about climate change may not reflect that.
The urgency of protecting the environment
With such little emphasis on climate change in education, how urgent is the state of the world really? According to new reports from the United Nations, very. The world population is expected to swell to over 10.9 billion by the end of this century, further accelerating global warming and natural resource depletion. Increased pollution has also been linked to poor academic performance. For example, students learning in close proximity to the coal-fired power plants in Chicago or the toxic chemical sites in Florida have worse attendance and worse test scores than the national average.
While gradual, steps have been taken to further the environmental efficiency of schools and campuses in various states, although many feel not fast enough.
As of 2018, 5,500 U.S. K-12 schools had installed solar panels with almost a third of those energy-saving institutions located in California. The Golden State is also spearheading advancements in transportation, deploying 150 electric school buses that same year to combat pollution and lower fuel costs. Other states have announced similar pilot programs for electric school buses, solar panels, and improved recycling but have avoided moving forward due to the significant costs.
Can schools really have a significant impact?
With over 4 billion school lunches served annually in the United States, one of best ways schools can work toward environmental efficiency is through minimizing food waste. A World Wildlife Fund report estimates that schools in the United States waste 530,000 tons of food annually, the equivalent weight of 28 U.S. navy submarines. It’s also estimated that American colleges waste 22 million pounds of food each year.
Witnessing the regular waste of food in U.S. Schools, the World Wildlife Fund teamed with the Kroger Co. Foundation to create the Food Waste Warriors program. One of the more successful food waste prevention programs in the country, Food Waste Warriors helps participating elementary schools reduce trash output, sometimes by up to 53%. This is achieved through recycling and ecology curriculum, reusable stemware, and composting.
Schools in the U.S. are encouraged to progressively incorporate sustainable practices and can be recognized for doing so through the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon School Awards.
Doing our part
As daunting as the decline of the natural world may often appear, it is important to remain hopeful and actively do our part to lessen environmental impact.
In celebration of Earth Day this month, ConexED employees removed litter and debris from along the Parley’s Canyon Overlook Trail in Salt Lake City, UT. Partnering with EarthDay.org, our team members not only removed trash from along the sidewalks, trails and roadway, but planted native wildflower seeds including milkweed for pollinators.
As ConexED continues to grow in the future, we strive to lessen our environmental impact, individually and together as an organization.