OCTOBER 2008 NEWSLETTER
Fall is here, and Halloween is just around the corner. The leaves may be turning brown, but schools across the state and even state and federal laws are steadily greening. In this issue, we focus on our newest tool - a beta version of The Green Schools Buying Guide, as well as fun resources for a greener Halloween; how schools like yours are going solar; new protections against toxics; and a fantastic festival that pulls together everything you could hope to learn about the green economy all in one place. As always, we'd love to hear your thoughts about green schools. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas for stories, announcements, and feedback. And go to our Donate Now page to support our efforts.
Thanks for greening your school!
NEW: GREEN SCHOOLS BUYING GUIDE LAUNCHED
Green Schools Initiative is launching a new Green Schools Buying Guide to help schools make purchasing decisions that will protect children's health and the environment. Schools spend billions of dollars annually on facilities, energy and water, office and school supplies, cleaners and pesticides, food, and play equipment. Why not leverage these funds to benefit our health and the environment? We can! -- through Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) or Green Purchasing.
The Green Schools Buying Guide will help school administrators, teachers, parents, students, and school board members make their schools healthier and reduce their overall environmental impact. The "green" universe is growing, and our Guide can help you navigate the sometimes dizzying array of information on green cleaners, pest control, paper, office and school supplies, food service, green building, green schoolyards, gardens, and more.
For each product category, we provide a 'primer' on the product: Why buy green? How can you tell if a product is green (criteria or standards for purchasing decisions)? Can you afford to buy green? You'll find green product information, info on how you can buy green, as well as other environmentally-friendly options and resources. We also include sample buying policies to help schools make decisions about purchases, as well as a list of procurement contract opportunities to facilitate green buying at big discounts for schools.
The Buying Guide is in “beta version,” which gives us an opportunity to ask you to check it out and send us your feedback. Do you have a question? Something to suggest? Please contact us at email@example.com.
TOWARD AN EASY EEK!-OLOGICAL HALLOWEEN
Halloween is full of fun, but it also gives us a chance to add some green to the traditional black and orange color scheme. From costumes to candy to parties, there are all kinds of ways to slip some eco-consciousness into the revelry. If you’re feeling dollar-conscious this fall, you’ll also find that going green can save you money. And there are lots of tips and ideas just a click away to make it easy.
Consider reusable canvas bags for trick-or-treating this Halloween. Your child could decorate a bag with ghosts and ghouls using fabric markers or paints. Even easier, re-use a paper grocery bag with handles – your child can draw spiders and black cats all over it with a black marker.
For lots of kids -- and many adults -- dressing up is at least half the fun. You can have a pre-Halloween costume swap with friends and neighbors, purchase second-hand costumes, or buy costume raw materials at a thrift store and get creative. Center for Environmental Health recommends avoiding vinyl masks and plastic/vinyl teeth - no need for poison plastic, Halloween in scary enough as is!
If you choose to forego trick-or-treating altogether, the links below provide ideas for parties and crafts that will keep the focus on fun, without a big cash outlay and all that nasty tooth-decay.
PROGRESS ON TOXIC TOYS
Parents can breathe easier at the sight of their teething toddlers gnawing on their new rubber duckies. In early August, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act (CPSCRA), and on August 14th, President Bush signed it -- the nation's first-ever ban on lead and phthalates in children's toys and products. And none too soon: 45 million children’s toys and products were recalled due to safety concerns last year.
The CPSCRA bans six toxic chemicals, called phtalates, from toys and other child-related consumer items. Phthalates have been used in many soft plastic toys and can be released from the toys when children chew on them. Studies have linked phthalates to early onset of puberty in girls -- a risk factor for breast cancer; testicular cancer, genital defects, and reduced testosterone production in boys; and impaired sperm quality in men. It is hoped that removing the chemicals from children’s articles will help shield children from cancer and other health impacts throughout their lives.
Makers of children’s toys and other children’s consumer products will now be required to submit all toys to testing for dangerous chemicals before they’re sold. Until passage of this bill, untested toys have been sold without such safeguards, and recalled only after safety concerns were raised over chemical exposures.
Congress has taken an important step toward reforming the way chemicals are regulated in the U.S., but there’s more to be done – see our update in this issue on the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act.
KID-SAFE CHEMICALS ACT: IT'S ABOUT TIME
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), American babies are born with hundreds of industrial chemicals in their bloodstreams. That’s one reason the “Kid-Safe Chemicals Act” (S. 3040) was introduced in the Senate in May 2008 by Senators Frank Lautenberg (D, NJ) and Barbara Boxer (D, CA). The bill aims to require the federal government to protect children and the environment by forcing chemical companies to ensure that chemicals used in baby bottles, toys, and other everyday consumer products are safe before they put them on the market.
Pollution is linked with a number of serious diseases in children, and the government simply doesn’t have the authority to protect people from even the most toxic chemicals. EWG reports that “Current law is so deficient that the Environmental Protection Agency couldn't use it to ban carcinogenic asbestos. In the past 30 years, EPA has evaluated the safety of just 200 out of 80,000 chemicals, and banned only five.”
The Kid-Safe Chemicals Act would update and strengthen the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act to better protect children from harmful chemical exposures. The chemical industry would also be required to go back and test the thousands of chemicals that were grandfathered in in 1976 with little or no evidence of safety – including the more than 400 chemicals that have been widely detected in humans.
In our May e-news, we brought you information about California’s efforts to manage toxic chemicals to ensure that they don’t get into our children’s bodies or the environment. If passed, the Kids-Safe Chemicals Act will undoubtedly reinforce California’s efforts to eliminate children’s exposure to toxic chemicals.
BUILDING MOMENTUM FOR GREEN SCHOOLS
A green school environment can make a real difference in our children’s health and learning opportunities. Green schools can improve the health of students with asthma and other respiratory troubles, reducing sick days. In a 2006 study by researcher Gregory Kats, “Greening America’s Schools: Costs and Benefits,” green schools spent on average 33 percent less on energy than traditional schools, and reduced water use by an average of 32 percent. Such savings can redirect resources away from operational expenses and toward excellence in teaching and classroom needs.
Now green schools have caught the attention of Congress: On June 4th, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3021, the “21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act,” by a vote of 250-164. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Ben Chandler [D-KY] and would provide more than $20 billion over the next five years to help states build and modernize schools for energy efficiency and environmental health.
Supported by the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, Environment America and more than a dozen other organizations, H.R. 3021 has the potential to save school districts billions of dollars in energy expenses and could help reduce environmentally-linked health problems. Projects would be held to one of three well-known standards for building construction materials and energy sources: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, Energy Star, or Collaborative For High Performance Schools.
On August 1, the bill moved to committee in the Senate. The Bush Administration has threatened to veto it based on the cost. You can send a message to your senator in support of the bill. For information about the bill and its status click the following links:
Resources: To learn more about the many benefits of green schools and what the Congressional Green Schools Caucus is doing to raise awareness, see the U.S. Green Building Council’s website and its Green Schools Caucus page.
ANNOUNCEMENTS: Celebrate the Fast-Growing Green Movement
The Green Festival is coming to San Francisco this fall. You can attend this fun and informative sustainability event to experience the latest and greatest in all things green: You’ll find renowned authors, leaders and educators; workshops and films; fun activities for kids; vegetarian food and eclectic live music. 300 eco-friendly businesses will be showcasing their wares, which include body care products, organic cotton clothing, gifts and crafts. Non-profit co-sponsors Co-op America and Global Exchange hope to demonstrate that the green economy is not just the wave of the future – it’s here and now.
Date: November 14-16, 2008
Location: San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center
California Green Schools Summit & Exposition
Date: December 8-10, 2008
Location: Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, CA
Call them sustainable, environmentally friendly, healthy or high-performance. The greening of California’s schools is well underway, and a growing number of the state’s 6.3 million students and 307,000 teachers are increasingly feeling the benefits. Don't miss the nation's largest green schools event and trade show, with a program and workshops that cover every aspect of creating healthy, sustainable schools – from green building and facilities management to developing green curriculum! The 2007 event was a huge success. This year, keynote speakers are Hunter Lovins, Co-founder of Rocky Mountain Institute, Time Magazine Hero of the Planet, and author of Natural Capitalism and Terry Tamminem - ship captain, sheep rancher, founder of Santa Monica Baykeeper, Secretary of Cal-EPA, and author of Lives Per Gallon.