Its Not Hard to be Green at School
Back in the pioneer days, schools were built for the sole purpose of providing a gathering place for children to learn. They were originally constructed of mud or wood, depending on what was available in the surrounding area. This was eco-friendliness at its peak. Over time, school buildings have evolved as construction technology, education, and teaching principles have advanced. Schools (and other buildings) are now built out of steel, brick, drywall, and glass, often with very little thought to the sustainability of the environment. This can lead to diminished air and water quality. We’re now starting to understand that this can have a deleterious impact on our children’s health. This is an issue educators need to start focusing on.
Here’s one way to look at it. Parents do their best to protect their children from all sorts of dangers. They teach them how to cross the street safely so they don’t get hurt; they teach them to brush their teeth after every meal so they don’t get cavities or gum disease; they teach them not to talk to strangers. But every day, these same parents send their children off to a school that may be less than optimal when it comes to environmental consciousness.
Here are some statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency regarding asthma and lead poisoning and their effects on children:
In 2006, 9.9 million children under 18 years of age were reported to have ever been diagnosed with asthma; 6.8 million children had an asthmatic episode in the last 12 months.
Asthma is the third ranking cause of non-injury related hospitalization among children less than 15 years of age.
In 2002, children 5–17 years old missed 14.7 million school days due to asthma.
A blood lead level of 10 µg/dL is considered elevated. However, there is no safe level of lead in the blood of children.
Today, elevated blood lead levels in children are due mostly to ingestion of contaminated dust, paint and soil.
Childhood lead poisoning reduces IQ, which can never be regained. Recent studies suggest that children with blood lead levels well below the federal standard can suffer from diminished IQ and affects on behavior. Other studies suggest that children exposed to lead may be at risk of developing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Of course, all this can’t be blamed on the buildings that children live, play, and work in. But indoor environment can play a large part in children’s health and welfare. The air that children breathe and the surfaces they come in contact with play a role in how healthy children are on a daily basis.
So what can school administrators do to help protect the children that sit within their school walls all day? Rebuilding the school in an eco-friendly fashion probably isn’t an option. But one step they can take is to purchase school equipment (student desks, chairs, etc.) from environmentally friendly manufacturers. These manufacturers and resellers, such as Hertz Furniture, use ecologically conscious practices and materials when building their school furniture. This means they’re easier on the environment during the manufacturing process, and there’s also less impact on the children who use the finished product. Since there’s less likelihood of toxic substances being found in the furniture, children are less likely to absorb chemicals through their skin.
Hertz Furniture’s Design Center services can help educators select age-appropriate furniture for the classroom that is also environmentally friendly. Hertz Furniture’s free Design Center service can help educators decide how to make the best use of classroom space and much more. Hertz Furniture is always glad to help and will respond promptly to design inquiries and any questions about classroom furniture and design. Becoming environmentally friendly benefits everyone in the school environment — students, teachers, and administrators alike. It may even have an impact on the parents of the children if they see their children’s health improve as a result.