MARCH 2009 E-NEWS
We once again find ourselves in "sunny California," enjoying poppies and sunshine after our drought-parched state received a dousing of much-needed rain earlier this month. At the Green Schools Initiative, we're excited to announce AB 821, "The Clean and Healthy Schools Act," which was recently introduced in the State Assembly. We're proud to be a co-sponsor of AB 821 -- please write to your representative in support of the bill! In this issue we also bring you some good news about "unlimited energy," stimulus opportunities for schools, a garden contest, Earth Day, and even Earth Hour. Earth Day is Wednesday, April 22, but the ideas, actions, events and links we'll share in this issue can have an impact far into the future. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with feedback, ideas and stories. And if you are able, please support our efforts on behalf of California schoolchildren by going to our Donate Now page. Help us make more good news!
Betsy Bigelow-TellerNewsletter Editor
NEWS & ACTION: Clean and Healthy Schools Act Introduced
The Green Schools Initiative is pleased to be a sponsor of an important bill, AB 821, the Clean and Healthy Schools Act, which was introduced in the California Assembly in February 2009 by the Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica). AB 821 is aimed at reducing exposures to toxic chemicals and improving indoor air quality in schools, with the goal of improving student health and educational outcomes. Cleaner indoor air in schools has been shown to reduce the incidence of asthma, allergies and absenteeism, yet the federal Environmental Protection Agency has found that half of all schools have poor air quality.
Green cleaning products are readily available as alternatives to toxic cleaners, often at no additional cost, but many schools continue to use conventional cleaners that can expose their students and teachers to chemicals known to cause asthma and cancer. Asthma is the primary cause of school absences due to a chronic illness and the leading cause of hospitalization for children under 15 in California.
Under AB 821, all public school districts and all private elementary and secondary schools with 50 students or more must buy environmentally preferable and certified cleaning products by the 2010-11 school year. Schools that can demonstrate that purchasing green products is not economically feasible will be exempt. The bill also requires the state to post information on the Internet to help districts and schools comply with the requirements. As Assemblywoman Brownley stated, "Schools need to be safe havens for learning, but too many harbor toxic chemicals in their cleaning products. AB821 will help schools switch to safe, green alternatives at no additional cost." Other supporters include California Teachers Association, Environmental Working Group, Regional Asthma Management and Prevention Initiative, Breast Cancer Fund, and many others. Please consider supporting this legislation!
Here is sample text to include in your email: I am writing as a [parent, teacher, student, or organization name...] to support AB821, The Clean and Healthy Schools Act. There is no economic or environmental reason that schools should continue to expose our children to hazardous chemicals from cleaning products. Using green cleaners is an easy, affordable way for schools to improve indoor air quality, reduce absenteeism, safeguard health, and improve the learning environment.
EARTH DAY AND EARTH HOUR FUN AND ACTION!
Earth Day is now decades old, and fresh new ideas for celebration and action pop up every year. Earth Day is April 22nd, but don't let your plans be limited to one day. National Environmental Education Week, the country's largest environmental education event, takes place April 12-18, and involves students and teachers in a week of environmental learning and service before Earth Day to inspire understanding and protection of the natural world. This year's focus is "Be Water Wise!" -- a fitting theme for our water-starved state. You can register to gain access to free teaching resources, including a school water auditing tool, water quality monitoring resources, and water-themed lesson plans at:
Fundred Dollar Bill Project: Here's a great Earth Day -- or any day -- idea that we just had to spotlight: It's a national art and awareness project involving millions of student drawings on "fundred" dollar bills, and it supports the environmentally responsible rebuilding of post-Katrina New Orleans. We hope you'll add your students' art to the mix! Armored trucks will collect kids' artwork from around the country and deliver it to Washington, D.C., where project leaders will request an even exchange: art "currency" for real cash to support solutions to health and quality of life issues still challenging New Orleans children and their families. To get started, go to www.fundred.org. There you'll find the Fundred worksheet template, videos of students in action, and a simple lesson plan. We hope you'll spread the word about this unique opportunity!
Unlimited Energy: Looking for an inspiring visual to kick off your Earth Day Assembly? Try "Unlimited: Renewable Energy in the 21st Century," a 26-minute documentary featuring passionate and articulate 6th graders and high school students, as well as adult experts, talking about promising alternative energy technologies. You can watch the entire film, order a copy ($10, tax-deductible) by clicking the link below:
Earth Hour is Saturday, March 28th: On Saturday, March 28th, from 8:30pm-9:30pm, you can join millions of people around the world who plan to "Vote Earth" by switching off their lights for one hour. Or you can vote for global warming by leaving your lights on. Easy choice?
Earth Hour is a worldwide event to combat global climate change that began in Sydney, Australia in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. By 2008 the event had grown into a global sustainability movement, with 50 million people switching off their lights. Landmarks around the world, such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome's Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness. You can see it all in a moving Earth Hour YouTube video.
This year, Earth Hour organizers hope for one billion votes for Earth, to demand that world leaders take action against global warming. The results of the "election" will be presented at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009. The Earth Hour Kids website has K-12 lesson plans and games and interactive activities for kids. Take a look and turn off the lights!
Take the Next Step: Use Earth Day as your motivation to get started on a plan to green your school, or to take the next step. Below you'll find links to engaging kid-focused earth day resources based on the "Four Pillars" on the Green Schools website; fun Earth Day projects & ideas; and an Earth Day organizer's guide and calendar of events:
Life Lab Video Contest
The Life Lab Science Program of Santa Cruz is turning 30, and for its birthday, Life Lab is hosting a video contest for those working with school gardens. Your school's garden can win cash and supplies!
How? Produce a 30-second to 2-minute video that answers the following question: "How does the garden help you grow?" With the power of photos, video clips, words and/or song show the world what your school garden program means to you and your school.
One winner will receive $400 ($300 in garden supplies for your school garden and $100 cash), and the runner-up will receive $150 ($100 in school gardening supplies and $50 cash).
The submission deadline is May 5th, 2009, and entries are now being accepted. The winning videos and video creators will be presented at Life Lab's 30th Birthday Party at the Life Lab Garden Classroom in Santa Cruz, CA on May 30th, 2009. More information and a video promo of the contest can be found at the link below. Lights, Camera, Green Action!