Climate Education

10 back-to-school New Year’s resolutions

Everyone knows the routine — the new year comes and we’re bombarded with New Year’s resolutions to improve ourselves. Often we set ambitious goals without creating a plan to accomplish them, and by February our resolutions end up in the recycling bin. What if this year was different?

What if this year we set resolutions to improve the world around us, in our various classrooms? 2020 presented enormous challenges to all of us, but we saw one good thing come out of it —  people all over the world joined together and accepted a shared responsibility of taking care of each other, and of our planet. From wearing masks, to recycling and trying new plant-based dishes, your actions helped the planet in big ways. By helping our planet or community and bringing sustainability into the classroom, we can restore our earth and show our students that change is possible!

In 2021, let’s work to set new health and sustainability goals that we can accomplish. We can do this by setting goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely — or SMART! Whether you’re in an actual classroom this year or logging in online through Zoom, these tips are a surefire way to bring sustainability and stewardship into your “classroom”!

Individual actions

  1. Switch things up by trying a plant-based alternative to your favorite foods. Start with a Meatless Monday and see what new recipes you discover!
  2. Analyze and reduce your plastic consumption. Collect all of your plastic trash in one place to see how much waste you produce in seven days. Look through that pile and see how you can reduce your waste production next week by changing how you purchase an item at the grocery store.
  3. Cap your time spent in the shower by creating a two song playlist before hopping in and try to finish your shower by the end of the playlist. Boost your mood by adding some singing and dancing!
  4. Support local businesses, artists and farmers and cut down on carbon emissions by buying locally sourced items and food.
  5. Give local pollinators a treat this spring by planting native plants around your home (and neighborhood if allowed). This not only supports your native ecosystems but can also help reduce your electricity bill.

Classroom actions

  1. Instead of relying heavily on lightbulbs, open the blinds and let natural light into the classroom during the day. 
  2. Set up your own classroom compost bin and work with other classes to create compost to use in your school garden or to donate to a local community garden.
  3. Next time you’re doing an art project or a science experiment, swap out your plastic cups for paper ones that will decompose over time.
  4. Students love seeing colorful cork-board displays in the classroom and hallways. To save paper waste use fabric backings of leftover scraps from fabric stores instead of construction paper. 
  5. Designate students each week to ensure all appliances are unplugged when leaving the classroom as well as turning off all of the lights. This will teach them to start doing this in their own homes as well.

These ideas are a great starting point to get you and your students thinking about what resources you are using and how you can switch to sustainable alternatives! Try a few of these out and brainstorm together what other ways you can help protect the environment from home and from school. Share your project with us and we might highlight your project in our Educator Newsletter!

As you create sustainable changes in your classroom, let other teachers and administrators know about your accomplishments. Have your students advocate for their ideas on school-wide changes like implementing Meatless Monday in the cafeteria, transitioning away from single use plastics, composting food scraps and reducing carbon emissions. 

For more resources to guide your sustainable resolutions, check out EARTHDAY.ORG’s Environmental Education campaign and sign up to be an Earth Day School!